Caring for Hospitalized Older Adults at Risk for Delirium: The Silent, Unspoken Piece of Nursing Practice

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More than half of hospitalized older adults will experience delirium, which—if left untreated—can lead to detrimental outcomes. Despite the prevalence and severity of delirium, nurses recognize less than one third of cases. Because little is known about how nurses manage this problem, a qualitative study was conducted to explore how nurses care for hospitalized older adults at risk for delirium. The data revealed that nurses care for older adults by Taking a Quick Look, Keeping an Eye on Them, and Controlling the Situation. The context in which nurses choose their priorities and interventions was reflected in the themes of the Care Environment and Negative Beliefs and Attitudes about older adults. Nurses are caring for an older population whose care requirements are different than those of younger people and in a context where this challenging work is rarely addressed. To improve care, the older population must be acknowledged, and nurses must possess the knowledge and resources needed to meet this population's unique needs.

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