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June 20, 2018

How Can You Tell the Difference Between Delirium and Dementia?

Watching your aging parent go through hospital-induced delirium can be very intimidating. The sudden and sometimes extreme changes in mood, behavior, functioning, and mental status can be startling, and can leave you worrying about their current and future health and well-being.

For many people, the symptoms of delirium can very closely mimic dementia, which can cause you, as the family caregiver, to be concerned that this disease is what your parent is actually experiencing. Comparing the different symptoms and elements of both conditions can help you to better understand what your parent is going through and position yourself as their advocate while they’re in the hospital, and their ongoing source of support and care after discharge.

Use these considerations to help you tell the difference between delirium and dementia:

How quickly did the symptoms appear? The onset of symptoms can be an important tell when it comes to the difference between delirium and dementia. Delirium has a sudden onset, and the symptoms are generally noticeable and distinct in a short period of time. Dementia, on the other hand, generally begins with mild symptoms that worsen over time.

Has your parents attention been affected? Elderly adults who are in the early stages of dementia tend to have very little, if any, decrease in attention. They tend to be alert and aware. Those experiencing delirium, on the other hand, may have difficulty with focus or the ability to pay attention to what is around them.

Are the symptoms changing frequently? An elder with delirium is very likely to experience large fluctuations in their symptoms, and may even experience a range of different symptoms throughout the day, and from day to day. With dementia, on the other hand, tend to have fluctuations in the severity of their symptoms at different times of day. Their general level of functioning and ability, however, stays largely the same.

If you have recently learned that your aging parent is living with dementia, now is the time to start elder care. Introducing an elder home care services provider into your care routine early in your senior’s experience with dementia can offer a wide variety of benefits for both of you.

With this elder care provider as a part of your care routine, all of you can work together to support your parent’s quality of life, encourage as much independence as possible, and help them make good choices to keep them healthy and safe. By having this care provider in their routine early, your parent has the opportunity to get accustomed to them, develop a routine, and develop a level of comfort and trust that will benefit their care later in their progression.


If you or an aging loved one are considering Elder Care Services in Cicero IL, please contact the caring staff at Big Hearts Home Care today! 

Matthew Calcagno

Matthew is a graduate of Robert Morris College and is a U.S. Navy veteran.Matthew founded Big Hearts Home Care after over a decade at HP. Spending time volunteering at his grandparent’s senior center inspired him to make a bigger difference in the quality of care seniors receive.His grandfather whom turned 100 in 2015 is still a major inspiration to him in seeing that service is provided with a family focused touch.

It is his passion and commitment to providing quality service that has awarded Big Hearts Home Care as Provider of Choice and Employer of Choice in the Chicagoland area. He believes that being an independently owned and operated company allows him the flexibility to manage the business in a way that better serves the clients.


"Helping people is what I was meant to do; it inspires and motivates me," Calcagno said. "I also get to help veterans - assisting them in the VA pension process and providing care for several in the area. This is what I love to do."

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