About 10 to 15% of elderly people experience an episode of confusion at least once in their lives. It is often mistaken for dementia, but confusion has different symptoms. Medical support is recommended, as well as a solid diagnosis.
The causes of confusional syndrome in the elderly population
Confusional syndrome can have various causes.
It can be the consequence of alcohol intoxication (above 2 grams). It can also occur during a phase of alcoholic withdrawal. Other factors, such as taking drugs or withdrawing from drug use (cocaine, hallucinogenic drugs, amphetamines, sleeping pills) can lead to an episode of confusion. It may also be the case with psychoactive medication and corticoids.
Other endogenous disorders can imply a risk of confusional syndrome: hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, hypo or hyperthyroidism, as well as meningitis, head traumas, epilepsy, emotional trauma, or a schizophrenia strike.
Other less serious illnesses can lead to a confusional episode, like dehydration, urinary retention, lack of sleep or stress. Certain people can show an unusual or strange behavior, be aggressive or completely apathetic.
Why does confusional syndrom affect the elderly more than other people?
Old people are more sensitive to the effect of certain medications, including those that treat brain related conditions. They are also more prone to experience confusion due to other illnesses: stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, dehydration, immobility.
Which symptoms should you look out for?
A confusion syndrome consists in a sudden change of behavior, or the inversion of day and night paces. You can then start keeping an eye on other signs, such as confusion in their self awareness or consciousness of their environment (when a person doesn’t recognise his/her house or relatives), attention, concentration or recent memory disorders.
How to diagnose a confused person?
If you notice one or several of the signs described above, start with establishing a comprehensive clinical diagnosis. A relative should be present in case the patient is unable to express or answer questions themselves. Additional examination will be carried out: glycemia, hepatic and renal check-up, lung x-ray, mental state check-up, etc. The patient will be asked various questions: do they mix up day and night? Do they stay awake during their usual sleeping hours? Do they have diabetes?
How can you help a confused person?
A person experiencing confusion shouldn’t stay on his/her own. In certain situations of extreme confusion, the person could leave without knowing where they are going. It is specifically for those cases that Weenect has designed devices that allow you to track the elderly person’s exact position, with a GPS chip. If you want to be helpful, stay calm and focused. Start by asking the person what day it is, the exact place where you are, any precise and factual question concerning time and space. When you observe that the person doesn’t reply, seems confused, or shows more serious symptoms, call an emergency number and ask for medical care.It is important to give special attention to an elderly person that seems confused and make sure that you know where he/she is at anytime. Click To Tweet