A recent JAMA article discusses how delirium emerged as a well-recognized complication of COVID-19, with particular importance due to its high prevalence and mortality. Unfortunately, early signs of delirium (also referred to as acute brain failure) are often “missed”. During the COVID-19 pandemic, reversible contributors to delirium must be addressed and approaches for delirium prevention and management can be built into routine clinical care.
The ability to recognize and manage delirium will directly affect clinical outcomes in older adults. Residents with suspected COVID-19 infection should be screened for delirium, because atypical presentations are typical in older adults and because delirium is the sixth most common presenting symptom in older adults with COVID-19.
Approaches involving family members, remotely or with careful in-person visits, is a critical intervention to assist in providing care, comfort, improve communication and stabilizing connections for older adults. Involve family members as much as possible to enhance both short-term and long-term outcomes of delirium. Remember, we may be moving back to a “new normal” but our residents may still be at high risk for delirium. Be sure you are alert to changes in status and are responding appropriately and timely! Stay well and stay tuned!