Pain in older adults
Frequent or persistent pain is a serious problem for many adults later in life. Pain may be related to long-term conditions such as arthritis, diabetic nerve damage, stroke or cancers.
Older adults may under-report pain because they think it's a normal part of aging. They may not want to bother care-givers. They may think nothing can be done for their pain. Older adults may worry about side-effects or addiction to medications. They may not realize that pain has consequences. Pain can limit physical and social activities. Pain also interferes with concentration, appetite, sleep and mood. Uncontrolled pain may cause mental confusion or challenging behaviors, such as aggression. People with difficulty communicating are especially at risk for under-management of pain.
Managing pain in older adults
- Many older adults can take an active role in their pain management
- Family members can play an important part in helping health care providers assess and manage pain
- A variety of pain management strategies should be explored with older adults.
- Even pain that has been present for many years should be treated
- Long-term pain responds best to a combination of drug and non-drug management approaches
Resources for Health Care Providers
Guidance on the Management of Pain in Older People - British Geriatric Society, 2013
Pain Management in the Elderly Population: A Review. Kaye, Baluch & Scott, The Ochsner Journal 2010.
Help the Aged - Pain in Older People: Reflections and Experiences from and older person's perspective - British Pain Society, 2008
Assessment and Management of Pain in the Elderly: Self directed learning package for nurses in long-term care. RNAO, 2007.
Pain monitoring and medication assessment in elderly nursing home residents with dementia. Tang et al. J Res Pharm Pract, 2016.
Pain Management in Older Adults: RxFiles Academic Detailing, Saskatoon Health Region, 2014.
Pain Assessment in Older Adults: Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing, 2014.