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When patients suddenly become confused

March 30, 2020

Hospital delirium is common and often goes unrecognized

hospital delirium

When Mary, age 84, was hospitalized for a hip replacement, everything went well until a complication landed her in the intensive care unit (ICU) and she began behaving oddly. She thought she was in a hotel, reported that a cartoon character had died in the bed next to hers, struggled at night to escape nonexistent intruders, and complained that the staff was ignoring the rats infesting her room. After a psychiatric consult, Mary was given medication to calm her and help her sleep, and eventually she started acting more like her old self.

"We stayed with her day and night, and the delirium cleared once she was back in a regular room. Now we can laugh about it, but she remembers little about those weeks," says her daughter-in-law.

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