Dealing with Delirium: Families Share their Stories


If your loved one suffers a bout of delirium, it can be a frightening and unsettling experience for all concerned. Delirium, a sudden change in mental function, can cause an extreme variety of behavioral changes, ranging from aggressive and agitated to sleepy and inactive—sometimes, even a combination of both.

When delirium occurs after an older person has had surgery, it’s called postoperative delirium. It’s good to know that your hospital’s healthcare providers and your family can work together to help manage and improve delirium, as these family caregivers discovered:

“After he had heart surgery, I noticed that my 86-year-old father was confused and not behaving like himself. Based on the delirium prevention information I found on, I was able to talk with my family and my father’s healthcare team about the signs of delirium and ways we could help my father feel more oriented in his hospital surroundings. We made sure to have family members around him. We read him the newspaper, got him walking, and kept him engaged as much as possible.

I’m pleased to say his recovery has been remarkable. Had his delirium not been addressed so quickly, I know the outcome could have been very different. As a caregiver, I was thrilled to have reliable health information that guided me in asking the right questions of my father’s healthcare providers.”
– Vivien, A Family Caregiver

“My father was 77 when he developed several serious medical conditions and had to be hospitalized. After he was transferred to a rehab center, he became disoriented—one night, he wandered off and they found him in the basement. He didn’t know where he was or how he had gotten there. We were worried he’d developed dementia and would never be the same.

Looking for answers, I read about delirium on That information helped my family and my father’s healthcare team discuss his delirium. We were comforted to know we could take an active role in helping my father become more oriented. We all kept him company. We read to him, made sure he wore his hearing aid, helped him be more active, and played his favorite music.

His recovery was amazing—it was a real fork in the road. Had his delirium not been addressed so quickly, I know that he might not have recovered—some people never do. Thanks to information from the Health in Aging Foundation, we are lucky to have him back to being independent and doing the things he loves.”
– A Family Caregiver

To learn more about the condition, visit the delirium section on There, you’ll find resources on delirium, including: