Q. Recently my brother was in the hospital, and he became very confused and agitated. He is normally a pretty sharp man, but the things he was saying made no sense at all, and he was very anxious. We thought he was going to have to go a nursing home. He has since returned to his usual self, and the doctor said he had delirium. Is this condition the same as dementia? Could this happen again? How can we prevent it from occurring? -Debbie G.

Debbie, Delirium is a sudden, temporary onset of an altered mental state. The length of the episodes can vary from days to weeks. It is more common in older adults, and often follows an illness, surgery, or a response to a medication. Hospital stays can often result in delirium, and people with underlying medical issues are at higher risk. Dementia, on the other hand, has a more gradual onset and is not temporary. It is possible for this to happen to your brother again. Since he has had this experience, you can be aware of what to watch for and keep her doctor informed when you see symptoms.

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