Dr. Sharon Inouye
Inouye, director of the Aging Brain Center at Hebrew SeniorLife and a gerontologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, helped writed a recent paper in the New England Journal of Medicine about delirium in older surgery patients.
WHAT DOES DELIRIUM LOOK LIKE?
Patients [with delirium] have difficulty keeping track of instructions and conversation. They can appear to be very groggy, disoriented, they may not know the time of day, may not recognize people or remember recent things that happened.
AND DELIRIUM IS FAR MORE COMMON AMONG PEOPLE OVER 70 THAN MOST OF US REALIZE?
It can range from 20-60 percent [depending on the type of surgery]. Heart surgery, neurosurgery, and some major vacular surgeries are the highest risk. The intensive care unit is an extremely high-risk setting, occurring in as high as 85 percent of patients. Also, up to 60 percent in nursing homes.
WHAT CAN PEOPLE DO TO REDUCE THEIR, OR THEIR LOVED ONE's, RISK OF DELIRIUM?
There are 10 tips on the website, www.hospitalelderlifeprogram.org . The top three would be: To bring a complete list of all your medications and dosages as well as any over-the-counter medications you take - it's even useful if you can bring in the bottle; bring the names and phone numbers of all your physicians; and bring your glasses, hearing aids, and dentures so you can hear and see and eat.