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Keywords:

  • delirium;
  • postacute care;
  • rehabilitation;
  • nursing

Although delirium has been shown to be a common, morbid, and costly problem for hospitalized older people, evidence has mounted that it may persist for weeks or months. Therefore, concern about delirium can no longer be confined to acute care. After an acute hospitalization, many older people are discharged to postacute care (PAC) facilities—rehabilitation hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. Although several models designed to prevent delirium in the hospital setting have been described, there have been few such efforts in the PAC setting.

This article describes the development of a multifactorial delirium abatement program (DAP), a new model of care for older patients admitted to the postacute skilled nursing facility with delirium. The DAP is a nurse-led, unit-based intervention. The program consists of four modules based on best practices as defined by the peer-reviewed literature: standardized screening for symptoms and signs of delirium upon admission to the PAC unit, assessment and treatment of possible causes of and contributors to delirium, prevention and management of common delirium complications, and restoration of patient cognitive and self-care function.

This article also presents the process of facility introduction, staff education on DAP content, and multidisciplinary outreach. Key strategies for DAP implementation are reviewed. Program adoption challenges and corresponding model refinements to enhance adherence and overall care quality are highlighted. Last, clinical adaptation of this research-derived program is discussed.