Delirium is a serious and common disorder especially among older people on inpatients units. Numerous modifiable or manageable delirium risk factors have been identified. As a result, there is now a widespread notion that many cases of delirium can be prevented. In this review, published data evaluating non-pharmacological interventions for delirium prevention were assessed in relation to their efficacy. Currently, most published studies are based on direct targeting of risk factors and/or introduction of educational programmes to increase staff knowledge and awareness. However, there continues to be a dearth of randomised controlled trials evaluating non-pharmacological interventions, partly because of the inherent difficulties associated with delirium research in general and with the evaluation of non-pharmacological interventions in particular. Instead, many of the available studies have been observational or non-randomised in nature. Nevertheless, the majority of these support a role for non-pharmacological interventions in delirium prevention. While more research is certainly needed, the majority of available data are based on best practice protocols, guidelines and interventions. Hence, a consistent and concerted effort is now justified to introduce non-pharmacological prevention strategies across units to help tackle the increasingly prevalent delirium among older people. © The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Geriatrics Society. All rights reserved.
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