Delirium Tremens in the Older Adult

Malissa A. Mulkey, Dai Wai M. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Caring for patients experiencing alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be challenging. Patients 65 and older are at increased risk for alcohol withdrawal syndrome related complications. The higher prevalence of co-morbidities, including cognitive impairment, longer drinking history and greater sensitivity to alcohol withdrawal syndrome treatment are the result of decreased ability of the brain to adapt to stressors such as illness, trauma, or surgery. DELIRIUM TREMENS: Symptoms may appear earlier from the last drink and present with a wide range of symptoms. The most effective interventions require high-quality nursing care delivery to prevent, decrease the severity and shorten the duration of delirium. NURSING IMPLICATIONS: Strategies that help minimize these challenges starts with obtaining the patient's selfreport of their alcohol use history. Nurses should be diligent in their monitoring for signs of active alcohol withdrawal. Screening and assessment tools such as the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol-Revised should guide pharmacological management. To support nurses in identifying delirium tremens, this manuscript seek to describe the underlying pathophysiology, key assessment components and nursing management of delirium tremens in the older adult.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-321
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Nursing
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • alcohol withdrawal
  • delirium
  • delirium tremens
  • geriatric
  • older adult

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Medical–Surgical


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