REASONS FOR SUDDEN DEMENTIA – DELIRIUM AND DEMENTIA – Part I

The increase number of people experiencing sudden dementia has caused delirium to be a focus of Medicare. As with everything else the way to capture attention is to create a monetary connection. In this case, Medicare reimbursement for sudden dementia is tied to identifying the cause of the patient’s delirium. The list of possible reasons, is to be a guide for consideration for every patient on Medicare with sudden dementia or delirium. Or any person admitted to a nursing facility who has sudden dementia as a diagnosis.

The basic physical changes that can cause a person to become delirious:

CHANGES IN VITAL SIGNS – COMPARED TO BASELINE (baseline, you always want to compare with what is usual)

  •  elevated temperature – 2.4 degrees higher than baseline
  • pulse rate less than 60 or higher than 100 beats per minute
  • breathing slower than 16 breaths a minute or higher than 25
  • a significant drop in blood pressure compared to baseline
  • a significant increase in blood pressure compared to baseline

ABNORMAL LABORATORY VALUES

  • electrolytes
  • kidney function
  • liver function
  • blood sugar
  • thyroid function
  • arterial blood gases (this is blood tested from an artery instead of a vein to check the ph of the blood as well as to see how well the lungs are moving oxygen into the blood and removing carbon dioxide out of the blood)

PAIN

  • how often is the pain, how intense, how long does it last, what is the quality of the pain?
  • how is the pain affecting the patient’s ability to function?

A complete pain assessment must be conducted at this time.

SIGNS OF INFECTION

  • fever
  • cloudy or foul smelling urine
  • congested lungs or cough
  • shortness of breath – or painful breathing
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • wound draining pus
  • any redness around an incision or wound

Some of these symptoms may be present but if there isn’t a good reason for something such as a slow pulse –  that is related to a medication the patient is on, then this symptom must be considered as a cause for the sudden dementia, and investigated further.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing