• ageism;
  • critical gerontology;
  • delirium;
  • gerontological nursing;
  • older people

Delirium occurs as a consequence of physiological imbalances resulting in alterations in consciousness and cognitive impairment. It is a serious cognitive disorder and one prevalent in older people. This paper presents a significant finding from a study that critically examined the major discourses circulating on delirium and the subject positions offered to older people who had been delirious. A qualitative research design utilizing a critical gerontological framework underpinned this study. Data sources included published documents on delirium and semi-structured taped interviews. A discourse analytic approach interrogated the 20 sets of data collected. Textual analysis revealed the existence of an ageist discourse. Consequently, older people who had been delirious were offered the subject positions of ‘being old doesn't matter’ and ‘a second childhood’. However, results from this study identified times when people who had been delirious resisted the ageist discourse. Resistance to the dominant discourse, although subtle and occurring on a micro level, acted to destabilize and challenge ageist and discriminatory health practices.