None of the patients had dementia or psychosis before their acute respiratory illness, and nearly all were discharged to their homes, not skilled nursing facilities, after their acute illness subsided.
A complex chemical reaction may be occurring in the brain that causes incorrect impressions to be made on the part of the brain where memory is stored, scrambling the details of reality.
It's like people "remember bits and pieces and then incorporate things from dream-like states," he says. "A person with a Foley catheter being inserted might remember the experience as being raped."
Bienvenu says that primary care physicians, geriatricians, and other providers who see these patients need to recognize these symptoms for what they are, and not think that the patient is exhibiting psychosis, or treat with anti-psychotic drugs.
"If we just say, 'Oh right, this patient is psychotic,' we really would be missing a chance to explain these occurrences for these patients," Bienvenu says. "Many patients have told me how relieved they are to find out how common these experiences are, and that even though they seem very real, they're the result of delirium" and that [they] will pass.