As death approaches, some people develop confusion or agitation, which can be distressing.
Any reversible causes of agitation, such as unbearable pain, should be identified and managed appropriately.
Agitation and restlessness may accompany delirium.

Medicines Information

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Therapeutic Guidelines: Palliative Care


  • Increasing agitation may be a sign of uncontrolled pain in a patient with dementia.
  • Medicines can contribute to akathisia and restlessness, for example, antiemetics and antipsychotics.
  • In the agitated patient with cognitive impairment, check for urinary retention and faecal impaction.
  • Sudden onset of confusion or altered mental state, especially if it fluctuates, is delirium until proven otherwise.

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This page was updated on 18 September 2018