Home health staff knowledge and experience of delirium and delirium superimposed on dementia in older adults

Donna Marie Fick, Priyanka Shrestha, Marie Boltz, William Doan

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Background: Previous studies have shown delirium is common in the home setting and can indicate a medical emergency. Many older adults come into the hospital or ER with delirium. However, little is known about the recognition of delirium by home health workers and community nurses. The purpose of this study is to explore the experience of home health staff caring for an older adult with delirium and delirium superimposed on dementia (DSD), with a focus on capturing rich details of these experiences and their knowledge of recognition and management of delirium. Method: Story circle methodology was employed. Data were collected from 20 staff members (age x̄ = 50, SD = 12.33) of a home health agency that serves 18 counties across rural Pennsylvania via Zoom video conference. Qualitative content analysis was utilized (Sandelowski, 2010). The reporting of this study followed the criteria for reporting qualitative studies in the (COREQ) 32-item checklist. Result: Nine themes emerged: (i) Negative emotions; (ii) A sudden change; (iii) Knowing the person with dementia; (iv) Potential causes of delirium; (v) Fear of delirium and staff fear; (vi) Lack of protocol; (vii) Distancing and redirecting for management; (viii) Role of family and care partners; and (ix) Barriers to identification. Conclusion: This is one of only a few studies that have explored delirium and DSD in the home health setting. This study had several innovations, including the use of story methodology and exploring the views of interdisciplinary team members. Importantly, delirium was a common occurrence in the stories they shared. Delirium often resulted in an ER visit or hospitalization. One of the most important findings was that home health staff had training for dementia and depression, but no training, agency protocol, or standardized assessment tool for delirium. A second important finding was the contribution of family and care partners in the assessment and management of delirium in persons with dementia. Implications for practice, research, and policy will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere065966
JournalAlzheimer's and Dementia
Issue numberS8
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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