Originally published January 29 2011
Underreported hospital delirium is on the rise
by Lindsay Chimileski
(NaturalNews) Although malpractice and missing sponges have become somewhat silently accepted by the medical community there is a new alarming risk on the rise, Hospital Delirium. Hospital Delirium results from the combination of an unnatural environment, sleep deprivation and medications. It poses a silent threat to the health of all hospital patients, especially the elderly. Patients report experiencing zombie attacks, alien invasion, and other paranoid hallucinations. It may sound like a strange science fiction nightmare but in reality it occurs in up to 1/3 of the hospitalized geriatric population.
Hospital delirium is marked by an inability to think clearly, disorientation, alertness fluctuations, hallucinations, and paranoia. It is usually sudden and can progress over hours or days. Hospital delirium is more prevalent and poses a greater risk for the geriatric population. In the allopathic medical system, the elderly are expected to be senile and disoriented. Because of this false expectation, patients experiencing hospital delirium are often dismissed as "normal aging" and ignored. Delirium and disorientation are not a part of the natural healing process and should always be observed as a warning sign. Mental status changes often indicate serious turns in medical conditions and should not be overlooked.
The official cause of hospital delirium is undefined but the triggers are everywhere in the hospital atmosphere. Patients are placed in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable environment. They are usually suffering from dehydration, malnutrition, infection and/or anxiety. Patients can also be left feeling vulnerable due to the removal of their glasses or dentures. On top of that, add Pandora's Box of drugs and medications, especially sedatives.
Hospital delirium is the consequence of violating the simplest of nature's laws and preventing the body from getting real, good ol' fashioned sleep. Studies prove that disruption of sleep may contribute to delirium and cognitive dysfunction in ICU patients. Staff monitoring and unnatural lighting prevent proper rest. This is especially true when deprived of sensory stimulation in units without windows, such as Intensive Care Units. Hospitals are now beginning to recognize the importance of adjusting light cycles to sync with the body's innate circadian rhythm and sleep wake cycle.
Sleep allows the body to repair and restores the brain. It primes the brain for all the new knowledge it will acquire in the following day. Sleep distribution and sedation are linked as important factors because of their shared effects on memory. Interruption of this process, in combination with baseline vulnerability and other hospital triggers, provides the perfect cocktail for delirium.
Hospital delirium is now found to have some lasting effects. Due to complications and postponed surgeries, hospital stays are on average six days longer when patients experienced delirium. Delirium patients have a three times higher risk of death in six months. Hospital delirium can also be responsible for the premature placement of patients in short or long term care, such as nursing homes.
Hospital delirium is finally being recognized but the current statistics are still vastly under estimated. Most practitioners avoid the use of the term delirium and use synonyms like confusion or agitation instead. Although hospital delirium can cause outbursts and aggressive behavior, it can also silently occur in patients who appear to be resting quietly. Patients can become too paranoid to speak or share their hallucinations, so they suffer in silence and their experience goes unreported.
Although the public knows little of the issue, many hospitals are acknowledging the problem and initiating new natural protocols including massage and meditation. When hospital stays are unavoidable, awareness and familial support are the best ways to protect yourself and loved ones.
Belluck, P. (2010, June 20). Hallucination in Hospital Pose Risk to Elderly. The New York Times.
Collins, N., Blanchard, M., Tookman, A., & Sampson, E. (2009). Detection of delirium in acute hospital. Age and Ageing Oxford Journals. 131 (5).
Maze, M., Sanders, RD. (2010, Dec. 18). Contribution of sedative-hypnotic agents to delirium via modulation of the sleep pathway.
Rocha, M. (2010). Delirium in ICU. Characteristics, Diagnosis and Prevention. Retrieved from < http://www.slideshare.net/hospira2010/deliri...
About the authorLindsay Chimileski: I am a graduate medical student currently pursuing dual degrees in Naturopathic Medicine and Acupuncture, expecting to graduate in 2013. I have a passion for health education, patient empowerment and the restoration of balance, both on the individual and communal level. I believe all can learn how to live happily, in harmony with nature and in ways that support the body's innate ability to heal itself.
Please note: I am not a doctor and not giving any medical advice, just spreading the word of natural living, and the pressing health revolution.
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