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Delirium in Palliative Care




Improved cancer treatments mean that people are living longer, sometime with complications which may predispose them to developing delirium. Unrecognised and untreated confusion is a distressing experience for both the person and their family. It can leave family members with unpleasant memories of their loved ones’ final hours. A further challenge in managing people with delirium is the threat to patient and staff safety, when a person is agitated with an increased risk of falls and injury. In this chapter, delirium in palliative care settings will be explored in people at the end of life (which has previously been called ‘terminal restlessness’). We shall also explore delirium in people in the earlier stages of disease, including those at home. A key aspect of palliative care is optimising quality of life within the boundaries of the disease process. Evidence-based information will be provided on assessment and management strategies to enable nurses to provide best practice care for people in palliative care experiencing delirium.


Contents include

  • A definition of delirium
  • Prevalence of delirium
  • Scope of the problem
  • Clinical presentations
  • Causes and precipitating factors
  • Assessment and management
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Author / Editor Biographies

MB BS, BEd, B Theol, Dip Ger Med, FRACGP and FRACMA
Eleanor Flynn is the lead Senior Medical Clinician for Inpatient Services at the St Vincent's campus of Caritas Christi Hospice. She is also a Palliative Care Consultant with Melbourne Citymission Palliative Care Community Service and a Senior Lecturer in Medical Education for the Melbourne Medical Scho
RN, Grad Dip Oncology and Palliative Nursing
Jac Mathieson has always had a strong interest in oncology. She trained at Auckland University, before moving to Melbourne to complete her graduate year at St Vincent’s Public Hospital. In 2009, she participated in the Clinical Research Fellowship program, where she looked at a nursing screening scale for delirium. This project led to the implementation of a screening tool for nurses at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. Jac is now complet...

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