Non-pharmacological approaches in the prevention of delirium

Fabio Salvi, John Young, Moira Lucarelli, Alessandra Aquilano, Riccardo Luzi, Giuseppina Dell’Aquila, Antonio Cherubini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Delirium is a geriatric syndrome often occurring in hospitalized older patients. Since there is no established treatment for delirium, it is important to identify patients at high risk to develop it, to implement preventive interventions. As yet, there is no conclusive evidence that different drugs classes are effective in preventing delirium; whereas they have potentially severe adverse effects. The non-pharmacological interventions to prevent delirium are quite diverse, ranging from single-component interventions to complex multi-component interventions that deploy simultaneous care for different risk factors. The aim of this review was to summarize the evidence concerning the efficacy of non-pharmacological interventions in delirium prevention in older adults. Methods: Extensive PubMed search using the following keywords with different combinations: delirium (with or without “prevention”) AND non-pharmacological; interventions; multi-component. The reference lists of retrieved articles and, most of all, systematic reviews and meta-analysis, were screened for additional pertinent studies. Results: The evidence for non-pharmacological, multi-component interventions is sufficiently robust for clinical practice recommendations to be formulated. However, no conclusive effects have been demonstrated on outcomes more distal to delirium occurrence and for single-component interventions. Conclusions: The majority of studies that investigated non-pharmacological prevention of delirium were designed as explanatory studies aimed at demonstrating the efficacy of the intervention. In the future, pragmatic studies should be conducted, in which the aim is to investigate effectiveness in usual clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-81
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Geriatric Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Delirium
  • Non-pharmacological approach
  • Prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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