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Recognizing Dementia, Delirium and Depression in Older Adults

ACE-Z tryptich


Recognizing Dementia, Depression, and Delirium in Older Adults

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Overview of Teaching Strategy

Dementia, depression, and delirium are among the most common psychiatric disorders seen with older adults and speak to the complexity of the specialty of geriatrics. The overlap of symptoms prevalent in this triad is abundant. The ability to differentiate the subtle differences is vital to optimum outcomes to older adults. Understanding the differences and putting the proper interventions into place helps to ensure the best outcomes. Adding to the complexity of dementia, depression, and delirium is the very real possibility of having a combination of these issues; even all three concurrently. Mortality and morbidity rates increase with delirium with mortality rates from 22-76 percent in hospitalized patients and rates as high as 40 percent one year after diagnosis of delirium (Inouye, 2006). The possible cascade of negative outcomes, which can result from any combination of this trio, can cumulate into a significant alteration in the quality of life of an older adult. 

This teaching strategy is designed to help students understand dementia, depression, and delirium. By better understanding this triad and developing a clearer understanding of the similarities and differences, the student will be better able to intervene to ensure the best outcomes. This strategy utilizes active learning to help students understand the content and to apply it to clinical practice. 

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Develop an understanding of behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Develop an understanding of the etiology of the behaviors
  • Articulate an assessment of behavioral disturbances v. aggressive behaviors
  • Recognize the risks associated with caregiver burnout with behavioral issues
  • Create a tool box of approaches to intervening with the client with behavioral issues related to Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Better understand the use of standardized tools in evaluating both behaviors and the etiology of behaviors
  • Articulate possible safety concerns as they pertain to the behaviors discussed 

ACE.S Knowledge Domains 

  • Individualized Aging
  • Complexity of Care
  • Vulnerability During Transitions 

ACE.S Essential Nursing Actions 

  • Assess Function and Expectations
  • Coordinate and Manage Care
  • Use Evolving Knowledge 

NLN Competencies for Graduates of Nursing Programs

  • Nursing Judgment
  • Spirit of Inquiry


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