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

 

 

TEMPORARY DEMENTIA – REVERSIBLE DEMENTIA REALLY?

Really, there are some conditions that cause temporary dementia and are reversible. While there are many diseases or physical conditions that can cause dementia, some are reversible. Seeking medical assistance as soon as possible may make the difference in preventing any permanent brain damage.

Delirium often times resembles dementia so much so, that someone who knows the elder is very necessary to give a history, of the recent state of confusion. Dementia from a disease process develops slowly over time. However delirium may develop within hours, in the elderly. Knowing what is normal for the elder and the speed at which he became confused, is a significant part of the diagnosis. Many things can cause delirium, frequently in the elderly it is an infection. As well as the elder who becomes confused every time they are in the hospital, due to anesthesia.

Medications , when looking for the cause of sudden confusion, referencing the list of medications that can cause delirium is a good place to start. As the liver and kidneys age they are less able to remove medications from the body and the elder gets a build up of toxins. Added to this may be declining health and the number of medications our elders are now taking, can set the elder up for developing delirium, and a diagnosis of dementia.

Brain Tumor, the first symptom of slow growing brain tumors in the elderly, very much resembles dementia. Brain tumors are know to cause changes in cognition and even personality changes.

Depression, some people with depression may complain of forgetfulness, they looks sad or worried, have trouble concentrating, and look depressed. The important thing to notice is was the person depressed and then became confused? Or was the person experiencing mental decline, and that is what caused the depression. If in fact the depression came first, the symptoms that followed can be reversed when the depression is addressed.

Vitamin B12 deficiency, or pernicious anemia will cause confusion, slowness, irritability and the person appears to have lost their get up and go. Even though vitamin B12 is plentiful in the American diet, this deficiency develops because the elder can no longer absorb the vitamin and requires injections.

Water on the brain, hydrocephalus, an excess of spinal fluid around the brain. This can be caused by a head trauma, but usually begin without an obvious cause in the elderly. The elder literally slows down, walking as if their feet are stuck to the floor. They will lose bladder control as well as become confused. If the condition is caught early and a shunt is put in place to drain the fluid, the person can return to previous level of function.

As always, early identification of changes as well as quick intervention is the answer to mental recovery.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Gerontology and Restorative Nursing