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The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) examined the impact of delirium and how to preserve adults’ brain health during illness or surgery. Delirium is a sudden change in thinking and behavior which is a serious medical condition very common amongst older adults, affecting as many as half of all Americans 65 and older following a hospital admission. While shockingly common, and often causing long-term problems, AARP’s 2020 survey found that most people 50 and older were not familiar with delirium. The GCBH points out it is estimated that about 40% of delirium could be prevented saving millions of peoples’ suffering, and billions of health care dollars every year.

Issue experts from all over the world and liaisons from numerous civic and nonprofit organizations with expertise in delirium and brain health helped develop these recommendations for adults 50+ and their health care providers. The GCBH adopted consensus statements on the state of the science on the issues, and provided numerous recommendations and practical tips to help prevent and treat delirium and its effects on cognitive function. These recommendations, tailored to patients and their caregivers as well as healthcare professionals and hospital systems, were approved in March 2020. 

Among the report recommendations is to “prehab” for any planned hospitalizations by maintaining good diet, exercise, and sleep before surgery. Ask for delirium screenings before any elective procedure.  Choose Age-Friendly health care systems and work with geriatricians who know how to handle delirium.  While in the hospital, bring family members or friends who can assist you and report any change in mental status or behavior. Another key takeaway is for providers to warn patients and their families about the risks of delirium and what can be done to reduce them. During this COVID-19 pandemic, health care providers should make safe accommodations to assure caregivers can help participate in care plans. In addition, health care providers should use non-pharmacological treatments and minimize narcotics and antipsychotics as much as possible. 

Interwoven throughout the report are powerful first-hand accounts of those who have suffered delirium along with their loved ones. Complementing the GCBH’s report are infographics with helpful tips for patients, caregivers, health care providers and anesthesiologists who play a key role in preventing delirium. 


To find out more about how delirium affects brain health, read this article by Rachel Nania.

Preserving Your Brain Health During Illness or Surgery: GCBH Recommendations to Prevent and Treat Delirium

Click image to view full PDF

Available in Spanish translation.

Infographics

Infographic: Delirium Harms Brain Health

Advice on delirium for 3 audiences (click below):

2020 AARP Delirium and Brain Health Surveys
AARP conducted two delirium surveys on adults age 50+ and healthcare providers. Learn more.

Delirium Issue Specialists

LOUISE ALLAN, PhD

University of Exeter (United Kingdom)    

DAN BLAZER, MD, MPH, PhD

Duke University

MALAZ BOUSTANI, MD, MPH

Indiana University

RODERIC G. ECKENHOFF, MD

University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

E. WESLEY ELY, MD, MPH    

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

LIS EVERED, PhD    

University of Melbourne (Australia)

LEE A. FLEISHER, MD

University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

SANDEEP GROVER, MD    

PGIMER – Chandigarh (India)

SHARON K. INOUYE, MD, MPH    

Harvard Medical School & Hebrew Senior Life

GEORGE KUCHEL, MD

University of Connecticut

ALASDAIR MACLULLICH, PhD    

University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom)

PATRICIA MESA, MD    

Pasteur Hospital ICU – Montevideo (Uruguay)

PAULA MILONE-NUZZO, PhD, RN

MGH Institute of Health Professions

EVA SCHMITT, PhD    

Hebrew SeniorLife

Suggested Citation: 

Global Council on Brain Health (2020). “Preserving Your Brain Health During Illness or Surgery: GCBH Recommendations to Prevent and Treat Delirium”  Available at www.GlobalCouncilOnBrainHealth.org

DOI: https://doi.org/10.26419/pia.00101.001