Dementia Research News - Spring 2017

3. Dementia and delirium in hospital

Delirium is a temporary state of confusion and disorientation that is quite common among older people, especially people in hospital and people living with dementia. In this study, researchers examined the brains of 987 people from Finland and the UK. Each person’s memory, thinking skills and experiences of delirium were recorded over 10 years towards the end of their life.

People who had experienced delirium or who had dementia-related changes in their brains showed a greater decline in memory and thinking skills than people without dementia or delirium. The key finding was that people who had experienced both dementia and delirium showed the most severe decline in their cognition over the 10 years prior to death.

Dr Clare Walton, Research Manager at the Society, said:

‘This study suggests that delirium is not just a result of dementia-related changes in the brain but might independently cause problems with cognition. We don’t understand why yet, but future research should look at the longterm impact of delirium on the brain.

‘We often hear of people who have developed memory and thinking problems or dementia after a stay in hospital. Understanding how delirium is involved and whether it can be prevented or treated is a pressing issue.’