Dementia vs. delirium

The terms dementia and delirium are often misunderstood by residents and families. While the two conditions share some characteristics, they can develop independently of each other, notes a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

While delirium isn’t always present in dementia cases, its presence seems to be a strong indicator of new-onset dementia and also may be a precursor for faster decline. The combination of the two conditions often leads to faster decline than for either of the conditions separately.

Researchers combined cohort data from three significant community studies, using 987 of the patients who had well-documented dementia, with or without delirium.

Those who had dementia but no delirium had a slower decline than those who had both, based on scores on the Mini-Mental State Examination. Those who had both dementia and delirium showed the highest rate of decline (1.27 MMSE points per year), higher than can be attributed to the two conditions separately.

“Delirium in the presence of the pathologic processes of dementia is associated with accelerated cognitive decline beyond that expected for delirium or the pathologic process itself,” the authors wrote. “These findings suggest that additional unmeasured pathologic processes specifically relate to delirium.”


Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia