Family Identification of Delirium in Critically Ill Patients Living with Frailty

About the Project:

Delirium is a brain condition where patients suddenly become confused and have trouble paying attention. Frailty is a medical condition that causes people to become weak and tire easily. Hospitalized patients living with frailty are more likely to have delirium. Patients who have delirium are more likely to die or have longer ICU or hospital stays. Nurses and doctors have tools to measure frailty and delirium in patients in the ICU.

However, delirium can be difficult to diagnose and may be missed. We think family members may be the first to notice if a patient is more confused or has trouble paying attention. Tools called the FAM-CAM and Sour Seven can be used by family members to measure delirium. However, neither of these tools have been used in an ICU. We will show if the FAM-CAM and Sour Seven can be used by family members to identify delirium in frail patients. We will measure the stress that family members experience while a patient is in the ICU.

This study will help us understand the important role family members play as partners in identifying delirium in the ICU and if patients living with frailty are more likely to have delirium when they are in the ICU. This will help us understand how patients with delirium and frailty affect family members and will help to improve patient care and patient and family outcomes.

Project Team

Principal Investigator:


  • Sean Bagshaw, MD, MSc — University of Calgary
  • Judy Davidson, DNP, RN, FCCM, FAAN — University of California, San Diego
  • E. Wesley Ely, MD, MPH — Vanderbilt University
  • Colleen Maxwell, PhD — University of Waterloo
  • Thomas Stelfox, MD, PhD — University of Calgary


  • Doreen Rockliff — Alberta Health Services
  • Bonnie Sept — University of Calgary


  • Victoria Owen — Alberta Health Services
  • Brianna Rosgen — University of Calgary

Project contact: Dr. Kirsten Fiest —


Keywords: patient-centred care; family-centred care; delirium; frailty; critical illness; measurement; depression; anxiety