Author(s): Wright DK, Brajtman S, Macdonald ME
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Abstract Delirium is a condition of acute onset and fluctuating course in which a person's level of consciousness and cognition become disturbed. Delirium is a common and distressing phenomenon in end-of-life care, yet it is underrecognized and undertreated. In this article, we review qualitative descriptions of the delirium experience in end-of-life care, found through a systematic search of academic databases, to generate insight into the intersubjective nature of the delirium experience. Our analysis of retrieved studies advances an understanding of the relational ethical dimensions of this phenomenon, that is, how delirium is lived by patients, families, and health care providers and how it affects the relationships and values at stake. We propose three themes that explain the distressing nature of delirium in palliative care: 1) experiences of relational tension; 2) challenges in recognizing the delirious person; and 3) struggles to interpret the meaning of delirious behaviors. By approaching end-of-life delirium from a perspective of relational ethics, attention is focused on the implications for the therapeutic relationship with patients and families when delirium becomes part of the dying trajectory. Copyright © 2014 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This article was published in J Pain Symptom Manage
and referenced in Journal of Palliative Care & Medicine