Access Quality Sustainability
Anew train- ing program in Calgaryis helping healthcare workers inlong-term care andassisted living unravel the differencebetween deliriumand dementia. Withboth medical conditions, residents canbe confused abouttheir surroundings and have poormemory recall.
The main differ-
ence, says Kathy Rasmussen, a member of the Pal-
liative Consult Team with Alberta Health Services’
Seniors Health, is delirium appears quickly, often
as the result of an acute but treatable health con-
cern, such as dehydration, fever, bladder or respi-
ratory infection or serious constipation. Dementia,
however, usually progresses slowly over time (or
can be the result of a stroke or brain injury), and is
“With our long-term care and assisted living
residents over the age of 65, it can be very difficult
to detect delirium because a large percentage of
them have dementia,” Rasmussen says. “Our goal is
to give staff a tool to help them know what to assess
and what to do if they think someone in their care
Days after completing delirium training and bring-
ing the new evaluation tool back to her unit, staff
nurse and educator Jeanne Pabilonia saw both put to
good use at the Carewest Dr. Vernon Fanning Centre
in Calgary. A normally calm and demure dialysis
patient in her 80s was highly talkative and confused.
“She didn’t have a fever, but she was a totally different person,” Pabilonia says.
After consulting with the woman’s doctor andordering a series of tests, staff at the centre learnedshe had a urinary tract infection. The woman’sdelirium disappeared shortly after she was treatedwith antibiotics.
“The tool really prompted us to call her doctor,”Pabilonia says.
“Delirium is something that’s very disturbingto people, but it’s also often treatable, and we wantto help our caregivers recognize it more easily,”Rasmussen says.
A part of a larger provincial program, SeniorsHealth will develop a number of training projectsand educational materials in coming months to helpstaff and family caregivers recognize delirium.