Practical Steps for Nonpharmacologic Treatment of Patients With Delirium

Treat primary disease process

Many causes of delirium are reversible if identified and treated early, and thus it is important to screen for and address delirium when the patient presents to the ED.

See the previous lessons–Delirium and Delirium Prevention in the ED: An Overview, and Evaluation of the Older Patient with Delirium–for more details.

Implement NPIs

Maximize positive stimulation

  • comfort
  • mobility
  • food/drink
  • socialization

Minimize negative stimulation

  • pain
  • discomfort
  • noise (alarms)
  • disorientation

Key concept

Avoid other causes of delirium/Optimize the environment


Young J, et al. BMJ. 2007;334(7598):842–846.


ED, emergency department

NPI, nonpharmacologic interventions