Nursing diagnosis – ACUTE CONFUSION



Abrupt onset of reversible disturbances of consciousness, attention,

cognition, and perception that develop over a short period of time.


• Fluctuations in LOC, psychomotor activity, cognition, and

sleep–wake cycle

• Hallucinations

• Impaired perceptive ability

• Increased agitation or restlessness

• Misperceptions

• Lack of motivation to initiate and follow through with goal-

directed behavior


• Alcohol abuse

• Drug abuse

• Delirium

• Fluctuations in sleep–wake cycle

• Dementia

• Over 60 years of age

ASSESSMENT FOCUS    (Refer  to  comprehensive  assessment  parameters.)

• Cardiac function

• Respiratory function

• Neurocognition

• Risk management

• Nutrition

• Sleep/rest


The patient/family will

• Experience no injury.

• Maintain a stable neurologic status.

• Start to participate in ADLs.

• Report feeling increasingly calm and improved ability to cope with

confused state.

• Express an understanding of the importance of informing other

healthcare providers about episodes of acute confusion.


Cognition; Cognitive Orientation; Information Processing


Determine: Assess patient’s LOC and changes in behavior to provide

baseline for comparison with ongoing assessment findings. Monitor

neurologic status on a regular basis to detect any improvement or

decline in patient’s neurologic function.

Perform: Limit noise and environmental stimulation to prevent addi-

tional confusion.

Use appropriate safety measures to protect patient from injury.

Avoid physical restraints to prevent agitating patient.

Address patient by name and tell him your name to foster aware-

ness of self and environment. Also, frequently mention time, place,

and date; have a clock and a calendar in sight and refer to these aids.

Give patient short, simple explanations each time you perform a

procedure or task to decrease confusion. Speak slowly and clearly

and allow time to respond to reduce frustration.

Schedule nursing care to include quiet times to help avoid sensory

overload. Plan patient’s routine and be consistent to foster task com-

pletion and reduce confusion.

Ask family members to bring labeled family photos and articles to

create a more secure environment for patient. Keep patient’s posses-

sions in the same place. A consistent, stable environment reduces

confusion and frustration and aids completion of ADLs.

Inform: Review home measures to use and report if patient begins to

exhibit signs of confusion. Tell caregiver to provide short explanations

of activities and orient the patient frequently; speak slowly and clearly

and allow patient time to respond; and provide patient with a consis-

tent routine. Teaching empowers patient and family members to take

greater responsibility for the healthcare needs.

Attend: Have a staff member stay at patient’s bedside, if necessary,

to protect him or her from harm.

Enlist the aid of family member to help calm patient. Patiently

encourage patient to perform ADLs, dividing tasks into small, criti-

cal units.

Be patient and specific in providing instructions. Allow time for

patient to perform each task. These measures enhance his or her self-

esteem as well as help prevent complications related to inactivity.

Encourage family members to share stories and discuss familiar

people and events with patient to promote a sense of continuity and

create a sense of security and comfort. Support family members’

attempts to interact with patient to provide positive reinforcement.

Allow time before and after visits for family members to express feel-

ings. Listening to family members in an open and nonjudgmental

manner promotes coping and may help you assess and monitor

patient’s condition. Reassure patient and family that confusion is tem-

porary to help relieve anxiety. Always include patient in discussions.

Manage: Confer with physician about diagnostic test results, patient’s

progress in behavior, and patient’s LOC. A collaborative approach to

treatment helps ensure high-quality care and continuity of care.


Cognitive Stimulation; Delirium Management; Hallucination

Management; Orientation


Buettner, L., & Fitzsimmons, S. (2006, July). Mixed behaviors in dementia: The

need for a paradigm shift. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 32(7), 15–22.