The applicability and feasibility of occupational therapy in delirium care

Key summary points

AbstractSection Aim

To perform a narrative review aiming at evaluating the applicability and feasibility of occupational therapy in people with delirium.

AbstractSection Findings

In this article, the current evidence of the role of occupational therapy for the prevention and management of people with delirium across different settings of care (intensive care units, rehabilitation facilities, and nursing homes) is described. Overall, the article summarizes the results of various studies, supporting the feasibility and efficacy of non-pharmacological approaches conducted by occupational therapists.

AbstractSection Message

Though further studies are required to confirm initial evidence, there is reason to believe that occupational therapy may be an effective approach to help the management of delirious people across various settings of care. Occupational therapy may therefore be included in the early stages of rehabilitation management for people with delirium.



To perform a narrative review of studies on the applicability and feasibility of occupational therapy in persons with delirium by analyzing evaluation and procedural methods in the therapeutic settings.


Starting from the international classification of disability, the focus was to understand if and how occupational therapy as a multi-component intervention can reduce the duration and intensity of delirium to prevent future disabilities. This review also includes scientific studies demonstrating the benefits of occupational therapy in terms of increased functional and occupational outcomes. Finally, the evaluation modalities and the therapeutic procedures performed by the occupational therapist have been analyzed.


The non-pharmacological treatments occupational therapists perform in people with delirium in intensive care settings are supported by scientific evidence.


There is preliminary evidence of the benefit of including occupational therapy in early stages of rehabilitation in acute care to prevent and treat delirium. Nevertheless, further studies are necessary to define the different aspects of the multidisciplinary approach that is common in geriatric practice, primarily determining the adequate timing, and intensity of interventions as well as its appropriate settings.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christian Pozzi.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in the study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the 1964 Helsinki declaration.

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Informed consent was obtained from patients’ authorized surrogates at study enrollment.

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This article belongs to special issue Delirium, Vol 11, Issue 1, February 2020,

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Pozzi, C., Tatzer, V.C., Álvarez, E.A. et al. The applicability and feasibility of occupational therapy in delirium care. Eur Geriatr Med 11, 209–216 (2020).

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  • Delirium
  • Occupational therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Delirium prevention strategies
  • Delirium management strategies