Delirium - a key symptom for Covid in frail older people

Delirium is a word that we often hear but do we really know what it means, particularly if, as we are being told, it is a key symptom in relation to the fight against Covid 19.


Delirium is a common, serious, but often treatable condition which can often be found in people who are unwell. It is caused by diseases that give rise to infections and inflammation. Sometimes delirium can be caused by medication. It come on very quickly but can have some pretty significant effects on a person. Delirium causes an abrupt change in the workings of the brain which leads to mental confusion and emotional upset. You could find it difficult to sleep, eat, be aware of your surroundings and exercise. Often people with delirium will become very muddled and will lose the ability to speak coherently. You will generally feel confused. We often see delirium in people who have a urinary tract infection. You may have experienced a parent behaving peculiarly with a UTI. This is delirium.


It is most commonly found in people over 65 with existing medical condition or with previous trauma to the brain whether it be by accident, stroke or dementia.


This week the BBC reported that a King's College study, which analysed data from over 800 people over the age of 65, including 322 with a positive Covid test in hospital and 535 using the Covid symptom study app with a positive result, found that older adults admitted to hospital, and categorised as frail, were more likely to have delirium as a symptom of Covid than someone of the same age that was not classed as frail.


Frailty is used to described older people who find it difficult to recover from everyday illness, strains and accidents, who are more susceptible to falling and end up in hospital when unwell.


One in five, on this survey, exhibited delirium as the only symptom. With data gathered from the app users one third said they had experienced delirium as a symptom but not the expected cough or fever.


If this study is to be believed we should be watching out for delirium in our elderly, frail family, friends and neighbours and be alert to the possibility this could be an early indicator or Covid.


Anyway, we should not just be watching out for delirium in relation to Covid. We should be looking out for this at all times. If caught it can be treated. If left it can do lasting damage.


To see the full article go to https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-54353888


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