What Causes Sudden Confusion in Seniors?

In this blog, let’s look at sudden confusion in seniors, its causes, symptoms, and what can be done to treat it.
What Causes Sudden Confusion in Seniors?

Sudden Short-Term Memory Loss & Confusion in the Elderly

Sudden confusion in seniors, also known as delirium or encephalopathy is different than Alzheimer’s disease, or other forms of dementia, which cause cognitive changes over longer periods of time.

If your older loved one is experiencing sudden, debilitating confusion or memory loss, it is critical to seek medical attention. In this blog, let’s look at sudden confusion in seniors, its causes, symptoms, and what can be done to treat it.

What is Sudden Confusion or Encephalopathy

Sudden confusion or encephalopathy is usually caused by multiple medical conditions resulting in brain dysfunction, which can present itself as memory loss, general confusion, or changes in personality.

Common Symptoms of Sudden Confusion in the Elderly

Many older people who experience sudden confusion, or encephalopathy will exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Disorientation – Feeling unfamiliar with the surroundings of one’s home, or being unable to recognize family members, or close friends.
  • Unusual Sleepiness – Some seniors who experience sudden confusion will feel sleepy, or fatigued at unusual times, such as midday, or upon awakening after a full night’s sleep.
  • Emotional Changes – Unusual depression, irritability, or apathy are common signs of sudden confusion or encephalopathy.
  • Involuntary Physical Movements – Twitching, limb jerking, or involuntary eye movements can be a symptom of brain disfunction.
  • Seizures – In extreme cases, sudden confusion can be caused by seizures.

What are the Causes of Sudden Confusion or Encephalopathy in Seniors?

Multiple medical conditions can cause sudden confusion in seniors, and should be addressed immediately.

  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTIs) – A UTI is one of the most common causes of sudden confusion in older people. The result of a buildup of excessive bacteria in the urinary tract, bladder, or kidneys, UTIs produce a painful, burning sensation, and an abnormal urge to urinate, even after immediately using the washroom
  • Head Injury – Sometimes, older people will fall, but are reluctant to disclose the accident to their family. If your loved one is experiencing sudden confusion, seek medical advice to determine if a head injury has taken place.
  • Stroke – People can have strokes, and not even realize it until conditions like sudden confusion occur. Look for signs of a stroke in your loved one, such as slurred speech, facial, or limb paralysis.
  • Malnutrition –  Brain dysfunction (sudden confusion) can be caused by something as simple as malnutrition or a vitamin deficiency. Not all older people get the proper amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fruits/vegetables from their daily diets. If you suspect your loved one is not eating a nutritious, balanced diet, speak to their doctor about a consultation with a dietitian.

Treating Sudden Confusion/Encephalopathy in Older People  

If you notice sudden changes in your loved one’s cognitive function, it is crucial to seek medical attention. Their doctor should do a full physical examination, which will include bloodwork, and an MRI of the brain.

There are a variety of ways to treat sudden confusion, including medication, antibiotics, possible surgical intervention, or changes in diet. Your advocacy for your loved one with their doctor will play a huge role in getting them the help they need to recover.

Sudden Confusion & Disorientation in the ElderlyFrontier Senior Living is Here to Help

If your loved one is experiencing cognitive decline, and living safely at home is no longer possible, Frontier Senior Living is a wonderful option for them. We have helped many families find the perfect Senior Living community to meet their loved one’s specific needs. Our programs are designed to help residents live lives of purpose and dignity.

If you would like to learn more about our services, we invite you to visit one of our beautiful communities, take a tour,  and speak with our compassionate staff members.

Find a community near you
that perfectly fits your needs.

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(857) 349-5044
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