Chapter 3: Symptoms and health concerns

Confusion – What can help

What their healthcare provider can do

How confusion is managed depends on many things including the cause of the confusion and the person’s goals for their care. For example, if their confusion is due to an infection, antibiotics may help. Alternatively, it might be decided that tests will not be done, even if the problems causing the confusion might be reversible.

Click below to read some of the reasons tests might not be done.

  • A person’s advance directive requests no further tests or treatments even for potentially reversible things like an infection.
  • The patient does not wish to return to hospital no matter what. If treatment requires hospitalization, then the treatment is not possible.
  • If the person’s death is expected within a few hours or perhaps a day or two, the confusion is often managed with medication.

For all of the above situations, it’s important to manage the person’s confusion to maintain their dignity, their safety, and the safety of those around them.


When people who have an advanced illness become confused, it may indicate a life-threatening complication. Sometimes the cause can be easily and quickly sorted out and treated. It’s important to be aware that while efforts might be made to find and treat possible causes, the individual may not respond to treatment.

What families can do

Click below for some suggestions that might be helpful.

Helpful resources