Delirium is an often dangerous and underreported condition in skilled nursing facilities, but a new pilot study is showing promise in closing that knowledge gap.

Currently, nurses do not use a standardized tool to assess delirium, a condition that occurs in about 34% of SNF residents and is characterized by restlessness, illusions and incoherence. Along with increasing the risk of death, also is associated with higher healthcare costs and functional loss, noted researchers with Vanderbilt University.

Investigators tested the use of the RADAR (Recognizing Active Delirium As part of your Routine) tool at two urban long-term care facilities in the U.S. over a three-month period. That included a mandatory delirium education program, along with prompts in the electronic medical record on assessing residents for the condition. More than 30 nurses saw the study through to the finish.

Gauging nurse know-how before and after adoption, they found a “significant increase” in knowledge of delirium, and an overall positive perception of the RADAR tool, according to the study, published in December’s Annals of Long-Term Care.