Measuring delirium point-prevalence in two Australian palliative care inpatient units

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Palliative Nursing, 2016, 22 (1), pp. 13 - 21
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© 2016 MA Healthcare Ltd. Background: Internationally, delirium prevalence in palliative care is reported to range between 26-88%, yet little is known about the occurrence of delirium in Australian palliative care inpatient populations. Aims: To: 1) ascertain 24-hour delirium point-prevalence in an Australian palliative care inpatient population; 2) test the feasibility and acceptability of the delirium measurement methodology. Methods: This was a prospective cross-sectional study. Delirium was measured in patients of two palliative care units using the Nursing Delirium Screening Scale, Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale and DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. Descriptive statistics were used to report patient demographics, palliative care phase, function, delirium measure completion, and proportion of patients with a positive screen and diagnosis. Results: Patients (n=47) had a mean age of 74 years (SD+10) and mostly malignant diagnoses (96%). All patients were screened for delirium, but few were capable of completing the Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale (n=2). One-third of patients (34%) screened positive for delirium and 19% were diagnosed as delirious according to the DSM-5. Conclusion: The Nursing Delirium Screening Scale and physician application of DSM-5 proved feasible and acceptable, while the Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale did not. Patients' advanced age and proportions screening positive for delirium and diagnosed as delirious attest to the need to rapidly recognise, assess and respond to patients experiencing this distressing disorder while being cared for in palliative care inpatient settings.
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