Acute Confusion Nursing Care Plan

Our acute Confusion Nursing Care Plan template optimizes patient care. It streamlines assessment, intervention, and management for optimal outcomes.

By Joshua Napilay on Jul 15, 2024.


Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

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What is acute confusion?

Acute confusion, also known as delirium, is a sudden onset of cognitive impairment that affects a patient's consciousness, attention, cognition, and perception. It can develop over hours to days and is often reversible once the underlying cause of medical illness is identified and treated. It is a condition frequently encountered in clinical practice, particularly among elderly patients, and requires prompt assessment and intervention to prevent complications and promote client safety.

Symptoms of acute confusion (patient report)

Patients experiencing acute confusion may report a variety of symptoms that indicate cognitive dysfunction, mood disorders, and altered mental status. These symptoms include:

  • Patients may see, hear, or feel things that are not present
  • A heightened sense of suspicion or fear of others
  • Confusion about time, place, or identity
  • Feelings of restlessness and inability to stay calm
  • Difficulty remembering recent events or information

Signs of acute confusion (nurse's observations)

Healthcare providers, particularly nurses, identify and monitor these vital signs of acute confusion:

  • Inconsistent awareness levels, ranging from alertness to drowsiness
  • Physical signs of distress include fidgeting or attempting to get out of bed
  • Misinterpretation of environmental stimuli, such as mistaking medical equipment for threats
  • Challenges in understanding or completing tasks
  • Involuntary shaking or trembling is often observed in the hands

Causes of acute confusion

Understanding these underlying causes of acute confusion is essential for effective treatment and management:

  • Infections, particularly urinary tract infections (UTIs) and sepsis are prevalent in elderly patients
  • Sudden cessation of alcohol intake can lead to withdrawal symptoms and delirium
  • Injuries to the head can disrupt cognitive function and lead to altered mental status
  • Certain medications, such as anticholinergics, can induce delirium, highlighting the importance of proper medication management
  • Electrolyte disturbances, hypoglycemia, and dehydration can impair cognitive function
  • Postoperative confusion is common, especially in older adults
  • Pre-existing conditions such as dementia, Parkinson's disease, and other mental disorders increase the risk of delirium
  • Interaction of multiple medications can lead to adverse cognitive effects, necessitating careful review and adjustment of the patient's medication regimen

Acute Confusion Nursing Care Plan Template

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Acute Confusion Nursing Care Plan Example

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How nurses assess and diagnose acute confusion

This condition demands a thorough evaluation. You need a structured approach to assess acute change and diagnose it to elucidate the underlying cause and guide treatment decisions. The following can help bring clarity to the often-clouded presentation of acute confusion:

1. Initial patient assessment

The first step in assessing acute confusion is a thorough patient assessment. Ask about symptoms like hallucinations, paranoia, and memory issues. Observe for fluctuating cognition, agitation, inappropriate perceptions, and physical symptoms like tremors.

2. Review of medical history

Look for predisposing factors such as age over 60, pre-existing dementia, history of alcohol or substance abuse, recent surgery, and chronic diseases. Assess current and recent medications for potential side effects that could contribute to delirium, including interactions between drugs.

3. Physical examination

Conduct a physical exam to identify any physiological causes of acute confusion. Monitor temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation. Evaluate the patient’s neurological and functional status throughout, including level of consciousness and cognitive function.

4. Use of diagnostic tools

Several standardized tools can help in the acute confusion of nursing diagnoses. Here are three of them: 

  • Confusion assessment method (CAM): This tool is widely used for its reliability in detecting delirium through features like acute onset, inattention, disorganized thinking, and altered level of consciousness.
  • Nursing delirium screening scale (Nu-DESC): Useful for quick screening, especially in intensive care units and other clinical settings.
  • Diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM-5) criteria: Refer to the DSM-5 criteria to differentiate delirium from other mental disorders.

5. Laboratory and diagnostic tests

Check for infections, metabolic imbalances, and renal function. Detect urinary tract infections and consider imaging studies if neurological brain imaging concerns exist.

6. Continuous monitoring and reassessment

Delirium can fluctuate, so continuous monitoring and reassessment are vital. Regularly reorient the patient to person, place, time, and situation. Tools like CAM and Nu-DESC should be routinely used to track changes in patient conditions. Keep detailed records of changes in behavior, cognition, and physical status.

Common nursing interventions for acute confusion

Acute confusion, or delirium, requires prompt and effective nursing interventions to ensure patient safety and promote recovery. Here are five common nursing interventions for patients' recovery and managing acute confusion:

  1. Frequent orientation: It is crucial to regularly reorient the patient to time, place, and person. Use clocks, calendars, and personal items to help ground them in reality. Engage in brief, frequent conversations to provide reassurance and reduce anxiety, helping to maintain their cognitive connection to the present environment.
  2. Environmental modifications: Creating a calm and well-lit environment with minimal noise and distractions can significantly reduce confusion and agitation. Ensuring the patient's room is safe by removing hazards and providing clear pathways helps prevent falls and injuries. A stable environment aids in reducing sensory overload and promoting comfort.
  3. Medication management: Reviewing and administering medications as prescribed is essential, especially avoiding those that can exacerbate confusion. Monitoring for side effects and interactions that may contribute to acute confusion is vital, and any concerns should be promptly reported to the healthcare provider. Proper medication management can help stabilize the patient’s condition.
  4. Promoting sleep and rest: Establishing a regular sleep routine is important. This can be achieved by encouraging daily activities and creating a restful nighttime environment. Minimizing nighttime disturbances and providing comfort measures, such as a warm blanket or a calm bedtime routine, promote better sleep. Adequate rest is crucial for cognitive recovery.
  5. Hydration and nutrition: Ensuring the patient receives adequate fluids and balanced nutrition supports overall health and cognitive function. Assisting with meals and monitoring intake helps prevent dehydration and nutritional deficiencies, which can worsen confusion. Proper hydration and nutrition are fundamental to maintaining cognitive clarity and physical health.

These interventions help manage acute confusion by providing a supportive environment, addressing underlying causes, and ensuring the patient's safety and well-being.

What is the nursing diagnosis for confusion?
What is the nursing diagnosis for confusion?

Commonly asked questions

What is the nursing diagnosis for confusion?

Nursing diagnosis for confusion refers to the identification of a patient's condition and potential health problems related to confusion or altered mental status. This is an essential step in creating a care plan for patients who are experiencing confusion, which can be caused by various factors such as medication side effects, neurological disorders, infections, or psychological conditions.

What is acute confusion as evidenced by?

Acute confusion is evidenced by symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, fluctuating cognition, disorientation, agitation, and restlessness.

What is a NANDA nursing diagnosis for impaired cognition?

The NANDA nursing diagnosis for impaired cognition is "acute confusion," which is defined as a disruption in awareness, orientation, thinking, perception, or behavior.

What is a nursing diagnosis for delirium patients?

The nursing diagnosis for delirium patients is "acute confusion," which involves a rapid onset of cognitive disturbances, altered level of consciousness, and attention deficits typically due to underlying medical conditions or environmental risk factors.

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