Helping people with dementia to better recover from delirium

Research project: Enhancing delirium recovery 

Lead Investigator: Dr Daniel Davis
Institution: University College London 
Grant type: Clinical Training Partnership
Duration: 36 months
Amount: £150,000

 Why did we fund this project?

Comments from members of our Research Network:

'The proposal appears to be highly relevant and potentially of great importance.'

'This is a good application addressing a priority area. It has clear aims, a robust methodology, and good plans for dissemination (putting findings into practice through the NHS, and planning a randomised trial). It could have a significant impact, and I strongly support it.'

'Delirium can have devastating effects for those with dementia in the short and long term. I am pleased to see that there is to be further research.'

What do we already know?

When people with dementia need to go into hospital, they can experience worsening confusion due to the stress and unfamiliar environment. This confusion is called delirium and can involve hallucinations (seeing things that aren't there) or delusions (believing things that aren't true). 

It is believed that many people with dementia might still have signs of delirium after they are sent home from the hospital and that this could be linked to worsening dementia symptoms over time.  

What does this project involve?

This project takes a multidisciplinary approach to understanding how to help people to recover from delirium after they are released from hospital. 

There are two projects involved with this partnership. The first project will focus on how to help people recover their memory and thinking abilities after they experience delirium. 

The researchers involved in this project will do an in-depth review of the existing literature on delirium recovery, and find out what can be done to prevent decline in memory and thinking. They will then work with nursing, psychology and medical professionals to develop potential strategies to help people to recover from delirium. They will also work with people affected by dementia and their families to develop and test these strategies. The strategies will then be tested with a small group of people with dementia who have experienced delirium.

The second project will focus on how to help people to physically recover from delirium. This is because many people will lose some of their strength and mobility after delirium, and be increasingly reliant on other people. 

This project will again review the existing literature and work with experts in the field, in this case including physiotherapists and occupational therapists. They will use the information to develop tests that can be used within NHS settings to find out how well someone is recovering physically after experiencing delirium. 

How will this benefit people with dementia?

Clinicians and researchers are increasingly aware that delirium could play a role in making dementia symptoms worse. Therefore finding a way to help people with dementia to recover from delirium could help to prevent the worsening of symptoms and enable people to live better. 

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