Harvard Women's Health Watch

Going to the hospital? HELP is on the way

You can take measures to keep yourself or a loved one from becoming confused and disoriented during hospitalization.

HELP hospital delirium
Arranging for support from family and friends is one of the most important things you can do when planning a hospital stay.
Image: monkeybusinessimages/Thinkstock

During hospital stays, about half of people over 65 have episodes of delirium (a sudden change in mental status), according to several major studies. Those who do are at increased risk for developing cognitive impairment and dementia after their release.

It's easy to understand why hospitalization can be disorienting—even if you are young and generally healthy. Your daily routine is overturned, you are introduced to a stream of new caregivers, and it's hard to sleep through the night. Anesthetics or sedative medications can also affect your mental state. As we age, it becomes even more difficult to adapt to sudden disruptions.

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