Canadian Alliance on mental Illness and Mental Health Alliance Canadienne pour la Maladie Mentale et la Sante Mentale

Tools for Health Care Providers:
The Assessment & Treatment of Delirium in Older Adults

Delirium is a common and serious condition encountered in older persons. Compared to similarly aged individuals, older hospitalized persons who are delirious have a worse prognosis. They have prolonged lengths of hospital stay, worse functional outcomes, higher institutionalization rates, increased risk for cognitive decline and higher mortality rates (Leentjens & van der Mast, 2005; Rockwood, 2001). In many cases, delirium is not recognized or is misdiagnosed as another condition such as dementia or depression. The occurrence of delirium is not inevitable.

With funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada Population Health Fund, CCSMH was able to collaborate with experts in the fields of geriatrics and delirium to develop evidence-based recommendations on the assessment and treatment of delirium in older adults. From 2007-2010, pilot projects were launched to disseminate information and implement recommendations from the guidelines. Exciting work on these projects is still underway. Bookmark this page and visit us frequently for updates or contact us for more information.

All documents can be downloaded at no charge. Interested in hard copies? Please visit Request Resources for more information.

UPDATED 2014: Assessment and Treatment of Delirium
Available in French/disponibles en français

The Guideline Updates summarize significant developments in the practice since the publication of the original guidelines in 2006. Guideline Updates are authored and reviewed by experts associated with the original guideline development project. Please refer to the original guideline below for more detailed information regarding the specific practice recommendations.

CCSMH National Guidelines for Seniors' Mental Health: The Assessment and Treatment of Delirium
(available in French/disponibles en français)

Delirium Guideline Development Group

Delirium: Assessment & Treatment for Older Adults (clinician pocket card) [pdf]
(available in French/disponibles en français)

Delirium Pocket Card Development Group

Delirium in the Elderly: CCSMH National Guidelines-informed Interactive, Case-Based Tutorial [ppt]

Developed in cooperation with the Nova Scotia Seniors' Mental Health Network to be video-conferenced to hospital-based mental health programs in all nine districts in Nova Scotia and used in face-to-face knowledge transfer sessions.

List of additional delirium resources

Guideline on the Assessment and Treatment of Delirium in Older Adults at the End of Life (adapted from the CCSMH National Guidelines for Seniors' Mental Health: The Assessment and Treatment of Delirium) [pdf]

Please note: this is an online resource only. There are currently no hard copies available for distribution.

Guideline Adaptation Group

The CCSMH has also produced an educational, user-friendly guide about delirium for seniors and family members.

[updated February 24, 2011]