Delirium is common among patients who are undergoing care in a palliative environment. For many, the onset of delirium often results in a more sudden loss of life leaving family to feel helpless and confused. If you are caring for a loved one who has been admitted to a palliative care setting, it is important to understand and ask for testing related to delirium to ensure your loved one is given the proper care during their admission.
In terms of psychological conditions within and among palliative care patients, the onset of delirium is one of the most common. Typically, when a patient arrives in a palliative care setting, their illness is far advanced past any other type of psychological disorder. Conditions such as depression, anxiety and aggression have often, at this point, manifested in the home environment and are pre-existing to the admission to the palliative care setting.
Upon admission to the palliative care facility, you will want to ask the healthcare team about the testing that can be done to rule out, or confirm, delirium in your loved one. One of the tests that is commonly performed, but not well interpreted, is a test known as the CAM, or Confusion Assessment Method. The CAM test is often utilized right as a patient is admitted into the palliative care setting because it offers a fast and efficient way to diagnose delirium and set the course for the initial care.
For a positive finding in the CAM testing, your loved one must score positive results in four of the nine assessment criteria. Unfortunately, and often, healthcare professionals fail to capture positive findings in four of the nine criteria and diagnosis of delirium is made as a false negative. When this occurs, your loved one may be missing vital opportunities for treatment and care of the delirium and, ultimately, this error is diagnosis may lead to a more hastened death. In fact, one of the most common missed elements is the presence of disorganized thought which, oftentimes, the healthcare provider will simply ascertain as fatigue or lethargy.
Testing within a palliative care facility is necessary to ensuring the health of the patients who are admitted. When your loved one is in need of this end-of-life care, be certain the healthcare team is properly administering tests to diagnose delirium and ask to review the findings. When diagnosed correctly, delirium can be properly managed and your loved one may experience a more comfortable experience during this end-of-life process.