• delirium symptoms;
  • delirium;
  • course;
  • long-term care;
  • age


To describe Confusion Assessment Method (CAM) core symptoms of delirium occurring before and after incident episodes of delirium in older long-term care (LTC) residents. A secondary objective was to describe the mean number of symptoms before and after episodes by dementia status.


Secondary analysis of data collected for a prospective cohort study of delirium, with repeated weekly assessments for up to 6 months.


Seven LTC facilities in Montreal and Quebec City, Canada.


Forty-one older LTC residents who had at least one CAM-defined incident episode of delirium.


The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), CAM, Delirium Index (DI), Hierarchic Dementia Scale, Barthel Index, and Cornell Scale for Depression were completed at baseline. The MMSE, CAM, and DI were repeated weekly for 6 months. The frequency, mean number, type, and duration of CAM core symptoms of delirium occurring before and after incident episodes were examined using descriptive statistics, frequency analysis, and survival analysis.


CAM core symptoms of delirium preceded 38 (92.7%) episodes of delirium for many weeks; core symptoms followed 37 (90.2%) episodes for many weeks. Symptoms of inattention and disorganized thinking occurred most commonly. The mean number of symptoms was higher in residents with dementia but not significantly so.


CAM core symptoms of delirium were frequent and protracted before and after most incident episodes of delirium in LTC residents with and without dementia. If replicated, these findings have potentially important implications for clinical practice and research in LTC settings.