Delirium and the Family Caregiver: The Need for Evidence-based Education Interventions

Gerontologist. 2015 Jun;55(3):345-52. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnu035. Epub 2014 May 21.


Delirium, an acute confusional state, is experienced by many older adults. Although there is substantial research on risk factors and etiology, we hypothesized that there is a dearth of information on educating the family caregivers of delirious older patients. A date-specific (2000-2013) literature review of articles, written in English, was conducted in several major databases using keyword searches. This systematic review focused on 2 objectives: (1) investigate published studies on the impact of delirium on the family regarding caring for a loved one; and (2) determine if there are interventions that have provided family caregivers with education and/or coping skills to recognize and/or manage delirium. A systematic elimination provided outcomes that met both objectives. Thirty articles addressed impact on family caregivers (objective 1); only 7 addressed caregiver education regarding the delirious state of a loved one (objective 2). Few studies consider the impact of delirium on family caregivers and even fewer studies focus on how to manage delirium in loved ones. With increased risks to older adult patients, high cost of care, and the preventable nature of delirium, family caregiver education may be an important tactic to improve outcomes for both patient and caregiver.

Keywords: Caregiver education interventions; Delirium and caregiver support; Delirium and family caregivers.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Caregivers*
  • Delirium / nursing
  • Delirium / psychology*
  • Family*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Support