Delirium at the end of life.

Oxford University Press (OUP)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Age and ageing, 2020, 49, (3), pp. 337-340
Issue Date:
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Delirium is highly prevalent in people with advanced life limiting illness(es), and current evidence can inform how we provide best delirium care in this setting. Whilst strategies to prevent and reverse delirium are the cornerstones of optimal care, the care for delirious patients who are approaching the end of life and their families pose specific challenges particularly if delirium is refractory flagging a grave prognosis. These include addressing additional supportive care needs, clinical decision-making about the degree of investigation and intervention, minimising distress from the symptoms of delirium itself and considering other concurrent problems contributing to agitation. A fine balance is needed to address other symptoms such as pain whilst minimizing psychoactive medication load. There is need for regular and clear information and communication about prognosis and goals of care. Witnessing a delirium episode in a loved one in close proximity to death requires consideration of the needs of the family into bereavement care. Palliative care is person and family-centred care provided for a person with an active, progressive, advanced disease; who has little or no prospect of cure and who is expected to die, and for whom the primary treatment goal is to optimise quality of life. It is an approach which can be provided regardless of setting and diagnosis, and by both specialist palliative care teams and other health professionals.
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