Many things that have been argued to be measureable (mood, attention, agitation) fall into the broader category of "I have a sense that this is occuring" rather than an event that is reproducibly measurable.
The term "agitated" certainly falls into this category. Formally, in nature, the term refers to movement, but when one human observes another, it refers to both movement and to a sense that the movement has no specific purpose.
The difficulty with this is, how do we know what the purpose is if the patient has difficulties with communication ?
We can take a similar approach to the issue of attention.
Our first difficulty is to determine, other than the anecdotal, conventional, or colloquial observation of attention, what is attention, in such a way that we can make a definition that is sicientifically sound ?
For us to do so, we first need to determine a way in which attention can be assessed indepenent of other factors. In order to do so, we need to at least have some measurement steps, that can further refined. We would also expect that, after refinement of several experimental determinations, that we will eventually have several means of measurement that will have the same outcome, regardless of other factors occuring with the patient.
To do so, we must first have some notion of what we are measuring. One way of viewing attention as the ability to process a set of data that are in sequence.
Thus, a good example of intact attention is the abiolity to carry out a task that has many steps, either different in nature, or similar, but which are part of the whole task.
The task sequence must lead to a whole that the patient is well motivated towards. It gives us no additional information if we present a task to an individual that is distasteful, and them expect it to be completed. Instead, the task must be in the category of the most desirable tasks for the patient, or perhaps, even a task that is necessary to healthy life.
Put in this way, we can see that a deficit of attention cannot be found be this most reasonable method, unless we find a patient that is engaged in something that is immediately ungratifying, to the neglect of something that is immediately gratifying.
We might then ask, is there really such a thing as a lack, objectively, of attention ?
If however, instead of looking at attention as a simple cognitive construct (completion orf a task, or faiure to complete), we examine it as a memory processing construct or a rate of cogntition construct, we might find that, indeed, what is called attention loss is rather a very different thing, either a loss of memory of where one element in a sequence leaves off and another begins, or, alternatively, how quickly the mind moves from the old end to the new beginning.
Finally, before considering attention as a non - cogntivie (a social or emtional concept, we should consider that we should see if there is such a thing as distraction.