Background: Studies estimate that approximately one-third of episodes of delirium are preventable and that delirium prevention and management are often suboptimal in practice. While there is no doubt that prevention is desirable, the evidence of the benefits of early intervention and treatment for older hospitalised patients with dementia is unclear.
Aim: To determine the effects of DemDel, a comprehensive delirium management programme, in inpatient acute care elders with cognitive impairment.
Design and methods: This paper reports the quantitative part of a mixed methods study, comparing an intervention with treatment as usual using validated outcome measures. After training, ward nurses and physicians administered the intervention based on the DemDel algorithm that focused on delirium prevention, including an intensive systematic screening schedule for cognitive impairment and delirium, as well as comprehensive delirium management. The delirium management regimen included timely administration of pro re nata medication.
Settings: The study was conducted within four medical wards of an acute care university hospital in urban Switzerland.
Participants: A total of 268 patients with cognitive impairment participated in the pre/post comparison study. The intervention and treatment as usual groups consisted of 138 and 130 patients, respectively.
Results: Eighty-seven (32.5%) out of 268 patients developed delirium, of whom 51 (58.6%) were of mixed, 10 (11.5%) hyperactive and 26 (29.9%) hypoactive delirium subtypes. Delirium appeared within the first five days after admission in 81.6% of cases. The 44 (31.9%) patients with delirium in the intervention group with systematic delirium management had less severe episodes of delirium and required medication for management than the 43 (33.1%) delirious patients in the control group. Intervention compliance was good on three of the four units.
Conclusions: The DemDel programme was effective with regard to improvement of outcomes associated with delirium in patients with cognitive impairment. The intervention was feasible and possible to be embedded within routine practice on four busy general medical wards.
Keywords: Algorithms; Clinical nursing research; Cognition; Delirium; Dementia; Early medical intervention; Focus groups; Inpatients; Outcome assessment (health care); Prevention & control.
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