Chapter 2: Explaining common clinical issues

Delirium and confusion

There may be fluctuating moments of confusion and clarity as a person nears death. A recent study found that 59% - 88% of people with advanced cancer experience various symptoms of delirium in the weeks or hours before death.

Sometimes the symptoms can be improved medically. However, delirium is often a sign that the illness is progressing and isn’t related to psychological problems or medication. 

What families can do  

  • Pay close attention to changes in the patient's condition and alert the health team.
  • Create a quiet, calm environment.
  • Spend time with the patient, talking to them, holding their hand.