Causes of Confusion In the Elderly

Health and Wellness - Aging

By: ListMaker     08-Jan-2011

Introduction:

Those caregivers among us need to be aware of the top five causes of confusion in the elderly. If you've noticed a rapid decrease in cognitive function in your senior citizen friend, there might be an underlying cause for the dementia that is treatable and it might just be temporary dementia.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

A UTI is the most common cause of quick onset confusion in the elderly - seems strange, but it's true. And, UTIs frequently go untreated as the elderly might not report symptoms that a younger person with a UTI would have.

Typical symptoms of a UTI include:
A frequent need to urinate
Burning or sharp pain on urination
A feeling like one needs to urinate

If your elderly friend has become confused at a rapid rate, get him or her to a doctor. A course of antibiotics might well reduce the dementia and return them to their previous cognitive state.

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A TIA is a very small episode where stoke-like symptoms may appear (TIAs are not strokes as the effects of TIAs will not show up CT or MRI scans whereby strokes will). Regardless of whether a TIA will show up or not, the brain has been starved of oxygen for just a short while which can cause confusion. Episodes of TIAs can last as long as 24 hours but generally they're shorter and, in fact, there may only be one episode at all.

TIA symptoms may include intense confusion for just a bit, a blank stare, difficulty moving or irrational behavior. TIAs are not preventable but may be a warning sign that a larger stroke will follow. If you elderly friend suffers any of the above symptoms, get them to a doctor as soon as possible.

Changing an Elderly Persons Surroundings

Most people do not like change and this is especially true as we age. Changing the environment for an elderly person, such as moving them to a nursing home, may cause intense confusion (among other emotions). If at all possible, keep their surroundings the same.

Studies have shown that the elderly will live much fuller, happier and longer lives when in a home environment so, if at all possible, invite Mom or Dad or the Grandparents into your home. The benefits to them and to you are immeasurable.

Lack of Sleep

As we age, our bodies seem to think we don't need as much sleep. The elderly also don't get as much REM (rapid eye movement) sleep which signals a deeper sleep and more restful state. Coupled with the fact that God has a sense of humor and we have to get up to pee a thousand times a night (shoot...there goes a secret....), a lack of sleep my easily cause confusion in the elderly.

Naps are not only ok but are required for an elderly person. Don't be alarmed if your elderly charge nods off mid tv program and naps for an hour. You might just find that confusion lessens if you ask them to take an organized nap in their own bed where they will get a deeper rest.

Lack of Oxygen to the Brain

Room air is about 20-22% oxygen and elderly lungs do not process oxygen as well as younger lungs. Putting the elderly on oxygen might just alleviate confusion as more oxygen will be fueling the brain. Ask your doctor is this might help your elderly friend.




Final Thoughts

Note: Antibiotic treatment in the elderly can have horrible side effect. Depending on which antibiotic is given, the body's good bacteria can also be killed off leading to severe stomach problems or even death. There are antibiotics frequently prescribed for the elderly though that certainly do not have this rather severe side effect! Check with your doctor and talk to him about your concerns before putting an elderly person on antibiotic treatment. And, read the link in the resource section below about things to know when accompanying the elderly to the doctor - this article will help you organize information needed for the doctor visit.

As a caregiver, it's sometimes difficult to deal with elderly confusion but it's just part of the job. Try to remember that the elderly don't choose to become confused, it just happens. Keep your sense of humor and patience when dealing with your senior friends. Someone might have to do the same for you one day.


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