Poor staff awareness of analgesic treatment jeopardises adequate pain control in the care of older people

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Abstract

Background

undertreatment of pain is a common problem in geriatric care. The aim of this study was to compare the caring staff ’s answers concerning the resident’s pain treatment with actual pharmacological pain treatment in a cross-sectional survey of the geriatric care population in the county of Västerbotten, Sweden.

Methods

a cross-sectional study in all geriatric care units in the county of Västerbotten, Sweden, including 3,724 inhabitants aged 65 years and over. The mean age was 83.3 and the number of cognitively impaired 2,047 (55.0%). Medication data were obtained from prescription records. The member of staff who knew the resident best judged their pain based on observations the preceding week.

Results

the reported pain prevalence in the sample was 56.7%. Of those residents reported to suffer from pain, 27.9% received no analgesics as regular medication. In 72.7% of those cases with reported pain and no pharmacological treatment, the staff member who knew the resident best still thought that the resident was receiving treatment for her/his pain.

Conclusion

a large proportion of the old people in geriatric care settings suffer from pain, and undertreatment of pain appears to be a significant problem. Even when the resident was not receiving pharmacological treatment for their pain, the assessor, who was expected to know the resident best, still believed in a majority of cases that the resident was receiving treatment. This highlights the need for better communication between the various professional categories involved in geriatric care.

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