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Revista Portuguesa de Enfermagem de Saúde Mental

Print version ISSN 1647-2160


MARTINS, Sónia; SIMOES, Mário R.  and  FERNANDES, Lia. The impact of delirium in the family/caregivers. Revista Portuguesa de Enfermagem de Saúde Mental [online]. 2013, n.10, pp.43-48. ISSN 1647-2160.

BACKGROUND: Delirium appears as a psychologically traumatic experience, not only for patients, but also for their family or caregivers AIM: To analyze and synthesize existing studies about the level of distress caused by delirium in the family and/or caregivers. METHODS: Non-systematic review of literature, of published articles in PubMed (2000-2012), using the term "delirium" with "distress", "impact" and "family", "carer", "relatives". The following were considered as inclusion criteria: diagnosis of delirium with standardized criteria and/or assessment instruments, and assessment of the level of distress in a systematic way in families of adults/elderly patients with delirium. Studies not carried out in English, and clinical cases were excluded. RESULTS: From thirty-eight articles initially identified, eleven were considered for analysis. Generally, family members (above all the youngest and those who were male) showed quite high levels of psychological distress even higher than reported by health professionals and by patients, as they were linked to several factors, such as worsening of medical condition of the patient and the presence of psychomotor agitation. In addition, family members interpreted this experience as a sign of approaching death, result of pain/discomfort or medication effects. There was also a relationship between delirium and the presence of generalized anxiety in these families. CONCLUSION: The negative consequences associated with delirium, point to the need for the development of support interventions for family members, as well as the assessment of their efficacy, particularly in the high levels of distress identified.

Keywords : Delirium; Family; Caregiver; Psychological stress.

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