MUSGROVE Park Hospital is working to raise awareness of delirium.

World Delirium Day takes place today (Wednesday) and encourages the recognition of delirium in at-risk patients.

Delirium can sometimes be confused with symptoms of dementia, and can go undiagnosed.

The main cause of a delirium is from an infection such as sepsis, as well as pain, surgery, constipation or dehydration.

Rachel O'Toole, a care of the elderly consultant at Musgrove, is working hard to raise awareness of the condition at the hospital.

She said: "Dementia and delirium have some similarities, but the main difference is that dementia develops over time, whereas delirium is acute, sudden.

"We want to recognise who is at risk and them have tools to diagnose them."

People experiencing a delirium can appear confused or perplexed and frightened, sleepy or distressed.

Dr O'Toole says that it is a scary occurrence and those who do remember it take a long time to recover from it, while a small percentage may not recover completely.

The patients most at risk of delirium is anyone over 65-years-old, anyone who has had major surgery or a severe illness, or anyone with dementia.

Those who have experienced a delirium are three times more likely to develop dementia.

The hospital is able to prevent up to a third of at-risk inpatients from developing a delirium.

In September 2017, the hospital introduced a new screening pathway to increase detection. Around 50 per cent of at risk patients on the medical admissions unit were being screened, this how now been increased to 80 per cent by February and it is hoped it will be 90 per cent by April.

Dr O'Toole said: "We are really pleased we've got our rate up to 80, and we are hoping to keep going with that.

"It's about awareness, and educating the staff to recognise it. If it is not recognised then a cause won't be found, then the patient is more likely to not drink properly, become bed bound, and get more confused.

"Our aim is to treat the cause and prevent complications.

Up to 30 per cent of patients over 65 could have a delirium.

Simple steps can be taken to prevent a delirium: 

• Make sure that a patient's pain is maintained

• Make sure they have clean and comfortable dentures 

  • Make sure they can see a clock and a calendar to they stay orientated
  • Avoid disturbing sleep
  • Make sure they can reach their drinks to stay hydrated 
  • Avoid moving patients 
  • Make sure they are using their glasses or hearing aids 
  • Check for signs of infections

Dr O'Toole added: "I am really pleased it is a much more recognised condition.

"If we can get it right, we get it right for all of our older people, and we can make a difference.

"Musgrove is very supportive of the changes that can be made to improve care.

"It is really good at raising awareness with the staff."