What are complications of delirium?

People with delirium may also have:

  • Longer hospital stays.
  • Medical complications, such as pneumonia and pressure ulcers.
  • Distressing memories of delirium, along with feelings of anxiety or fear.
  • Higher chance of needing full-time care.
  • Worsening mental abilities.

What side effects do delirium treatments have?

Antipsychotic drugs come with some side effects, although researchers are working on developing drugs that cause fewer side effects. Side effects are more common in older adults and can include:

  • High illness and death rates.
  • Stroke.
  • High-than-normal pulse rate with irregular heartbeats (sometimes occurs when haloperidol is delivered into a vein).

Benzodiazepines can cause:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Increased agitation.
  • Reduced control over behaviors.
  • Uncoordinated muscle movements.
  • Falls.

What should I ask my healthcare provider?

If a loved one is in the hospital with delirium, ask the provider:

  • What caused the delirium?
  • What treatment are they receiving?
  • Are they taking any medications for delirium?
  • Do the medications have any side effects?
  • How long will my loved one need to stay in the hospital?
  • What signs should I look for once they come home?
  • How can I continue to keep them safe?
  • What is the prognosis?
  • How can I prevent another episode of delirium?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Delirium is a state of mental confusion that starts suddenly. It’s more common in older adults and people who are hospitalized. If you notice a sudden shift in mental status in a loved one — for example, they’re confused, disoriented and distracted — contact a healthcare provider. Prompt treatment can help most people recover fully from delirium.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/16/2020.


  • HealthinAging.org. Delirium. Accessed 9/18/2020.
  • Merck Manual. Delirium. Accessed 9/18/2020.
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. Delirium. Accessed 9/18/2020.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy