New Delirium pathway

Delirium is an acute or subacute deterioration in mental functioning. It occurs commonly in the older population, particularly those in hospitals and aged-care facilities. The cause is usually multifactorial and reversible.

Delirium presents as fluctuating alertness, e.g. hyper and hypo-arousal, with cognitive impairment that has developed or worsened over hours to days, and is worse at night.

Delirium is often poorly understood, under-detected, and misdiagnosed by medical and nursing staff who perceive this as an exacerbation of pre-existing cognitive impairment or related to mental illness.

Initial recovery from delirium is often rapid, but complete resolution may take weeks to months.

Delirium management in the community can be challenging.

The new delirium pathway has been localised to align with current practices in South Australia. It includes links to helpful screening tools and apps, and highlights the common triggers for delirium.

Management principles and appropriate pharmacotherapy details are clearly presented, as well as links to appropriate South Australian referral pathways. The delirium pathway also highlights the importance of recognising delirium, treating delirium as urgently as other acute organ failures, and the need to document and communicate clearly the diagnosis of delirium to both other treating health professionals and to patients and their carers.

A delirium action plan for patients and carers has also been included.
Delirium pathway
Emergency Assessment referral page
Older Adults' Health Advice referral page

Access to HealthPathways SA is free to health professionals, for access to the site click here.

HealthPathways SA is a partnership between SA Health, Adelaide PHN and Country SA PHN.

Become Involved with pathway development and provide feedback
Health professionals wanting to be involved in HealthPathways SA can do so in a variety of ways:

  • Be involved in the development of a newly created clinical pathway by working collaboratively with the HealthPathways SA clinical team.
  • Provide feedback - HealthPathways are dynamic and your feedback is essential to maintain currency. If you would like to provide feedback, there is a feedback button on every pathway and referral page, or alternatively email us at
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