Better Assessment and Palliative Care Needed for Older Adults

New research conducted by a team from University of California San Francisco highlights the prevalence of chronic pain in older adults with dementia who live at home. The study appears online and will be published next month in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Lead author Lauren Hunt, RN, MSN, and PhD candidate at UCSF School of Nursing, undertook the study to test her own observations of the correlation between dementia and pain. “I was motivated to conduct this research study to understand the issue from the broader national prospective” Hunt relates. “It turns out that pain is very common in this population and is frequently severe enough to limit activities.” Dementia, including Alzheimer’s afflicts more than 4.5 million Americans, with the number expected to triple in the next 25 years.

More than 75% of older adults with dementia live in private homes, and as most studies of the population have been conducted in nursing homes, little is known about their health as it relates to pain. The UCSF team engaged the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) in which in-home measurement of physical and cognitive function of Medicare enrollees is assessed. The study found that, of patients with dementia, two-thirds reported pain and 43% had pain severe enough to limit activities. Only 27% of respondents without dementia were similarly affected. Risk factors for pain in the study cohort included arthritis, heart and lung disease, less than a high school education, activity of daily living disability, depressive and anxiety symptoms, and low energy. Among those reporting pain, 30% rarely or never took any relieving medications. The authors conclude that their findings highlight the need for “creative solutions” to ensure that pain is adequately managed in this population.

Link to articles about palliative care, here.

Read a news story about the study here.

The journal abstract, with link to the full article may be read here.

 

 

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