Author(s): Weiner DK, Hanlon JT
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Abstract Pain is prevalent and undertreated in nursing home residents, despite the existing wide array of effective pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatment modalities. In order to improve the quality of life of these vulnerable individuals, practitioners require education about the correct approach to assessment and management. Assessment should be comprehensive, taking into account the basic underlying pathology (e.g. osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, peripheral neuropathy, fibromyalgia, cancer) as well as other contributory pathology (e.g. muscle spasm, myofascial pain) and modifying comorbidities (e.g. depression, anxiety, fear, sleep disturbance). Pharmacological management should be guided by a stepped-care approach, modelled after that recommended by the World Health Organization for treatment of cancer pain. Nonopioid and opioid analgesics are the cornerstone of pharmacological pain management. Tricyclic antidepressants and anticonvulsants can be very effective for the treatment of certain types of neuropathic pain. In addition to treating the pain per se, attention should be given to prevention of disease progression and exacerbation, as maintaining function is of prime importance. Nursing home residents with severe dementia challenge the practitioner's pain assessment skills; an empirical approach to treatment may sometimes be warranted. The success of treatment should be measured by improvement in pain intensity as well as physical, psychosocial and cognitive function. Effective pain management may impact any or all of these functional domains and, therefore, substantially improve the nursing home resident's quality of life.
This article was published in Drugs Aging
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research