Researchers develop assessment tools to detect pain in dementia patients in nursing homes.

We have no information on the pain experienced by the elderly residents of nursing homes. In Norway, no requirement is in place for pain to be assessed before or during admission to a nursing home or after the person is admitted.

In certain countries the absence or absence of pain is a sign of the quality of care and treatment provided by a nursing facility to its residents. This is what Norway can offer.

It can be difficult for seniors with dementia to know if they are in pain. People with severe dementia typically struggle to express their feelings verbally about their condition.

Instead health professionals and nurses must observe the patient and look for symptoms of pain. Such signs might include a scream, a scream, facial expressions like grimacing or the patient reacting by trying to avoid touching and movements.

Our research team has developed an assessment tool for pain based on observation that can be used for all stages of dementia. This tool was developed to study the severity and incidence of pain in older people with dementia who are admitted to Norwegian nursing homes.

We discovered that 36 per cent of the almost one thousand (953) elderly people with dementia who were examined following hospitalization had pain that fundamentally affected their daily lives. The frequency of pain is high.

Both residents who were already on painkillers and those who did not experience the same kind of pain. About half of residents were taking one or more kinds of painkillers.

Other non-pharmacological therapies for pain relief like cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, massage, pressure relief and music therapy for the environment, were not investigated in this study.

Quality of life for residents can be negatively affected by pain, and severe pain can lead to even greater suffering. Insufficient treatment for pain can additionally lead to anger and restlessness, but also depression, apathy and many more.

It is essential to detect the signs of dementia in patients before you can prescribe medication or other non-medicated treatments. These measures can improve the quality of care and treatment and in turn improve the quality of life of residents in nursing homes.

It is essential that residents are regularly assessed for pain. This is part of a quality assessment and a requirement for nursing homes. Today in Norway, a large number of residents of nursing homes have dementia. The number of people affected can be as high as 85 percent. The severity and frequency of dementia have increased among residents of nursing homes over last 20 years.

It is crucial to use tools that focus on the detection of signs of pain in people with mild and severe dementia. This tool offers healthcare professionals an easier basis to provide both pharmacological and non-pharmacological therapies for pain.

Treatment of pain for older people with dementia is a challenge The first option should be non-pharmacological therapy which may include painkillers.

Implementing regular pain assessments and protocols for treatment as well as drug reviews that shed light on pain and pain-reducing measures for this group of the older people is crucial in order to reduce the incidence and severity of pain among the residents. To evaluate and treat this particular population it is crucial to have the right resources and continuity of care.

Journal reference:

Helvik, A-S., et al. (2021) Pain in nursing home residents with dementia and its association to quality of life. Aging & Mental Health.

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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