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What is the difference between delirium and dementia?

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What is the difference between delirium and dementia?

Any condition that involves memory loss and changes in personality can be complicated, for someone going through it, and family members. Both dementia and delirium involve symptoms of memory loss, behaviour that is out of the norm and communication difficulties yet there are significant difference between them.

What do experts say about delirium?

Dr Orser has been researching and conducting studies concerning delirium for many years. Based out of the University of Toronto, she is the co-director of research in the department of anesthesia at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and has been dedicating her life to figure out the nuances of delirium.

According to Dr. Orser, delirium is a state of mental confusion that happens intensely. One of the particularly concerning aspects of delirium is that it can happen overnight or over short periods of time. According to experts, most cases of delirium occur unexpectedly and while the symptoms of delirium are often temporary it can last a few days up to several weeks.

Why does it happen?

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), delirium or “acute confusional state” is likely to be brought on by medical problems, surgery or medications.

How can I tell if my loved one is going through delirium?

The RCP lists the following areas to question in determining if your loved one is exhibiting signs of delirium.

  • Are they less aware of what is going on around them?
  • Are they unsure about where they are or what they are doing there?
  • Are they unable to follow a conversation or to speak clearly?
  • Are they having vivid dreams, which are often frightening and may carry on when they wake up?
  • Are they hearing noises or voices when there is nothing or no one to cause them?
  • Are they seeing people or things which aren’t there?
  • Do they worry that other people are trying to harm them?
  • Are they very agitated or restless, unable to sit still and wandering about?
  • Are they very slow or sleepy?
  • Are they sleeping during the day, but waking up at night?
  • Are they having moods that change quickly. Can they be frightened, anxious, depressed or irritable?
  • Are they more confused at some times than at others – often in the evening or at night?

Dr Orser explains that a person with delirium may seem especially confused, suspicious of others, even loved ones, aggressive, or simply not acting like themselves. While delirium is usually temporary, medical experts advise that you contact your trusted medical professional immediately to seek the best care for your loved one.

What is dementia?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Dementia is “is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.”

Dementia is an umbrella term covering a group of symptoms. These symptoms are closely linked to memory loss and a decline in thinking skills, the declines in these areas significantly affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities and routines.

What do doctors assess in diagnosing dementia?

According to to the Association, doctors look at a group of five specific areas in determining if a person may have dementia.

Within these five areas, two must be significantly declining to warrant a diagnosis.

  • Memory
  • Communication and language
  • Ability to focus and pay attention
  • Reasoning and judgment
  • Visual perception

What does it look like in the day-to-day?

Experts say that a person with dementia may have problems with short term memory and that will exhibit itself in their day to day.

They may have consistent problems finding their wallet, remembering to pay bills, planning and preparing meals, remembering appointments and catch ups with friends.

Dementia is progressive

Unfortunately there is no absolute cure yet for dementia. In most cases it is a progressive disease, it is likely the decline in memory function and other thinking related skills will continue to worsen.

Experts across the medical community encourage anyone who believes they themselves or a loved one has memory difficulties to see a medical professional as soon as possible. This allows for early intervention, treatments and time to plan with your support network and loved ones.

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