Reduced Pain Reports With Increasing Cognitive Impairment in Older Persons in New Zealand

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Abstract

Background:

Conflicting findings prevail about pain in older persons with cognitive impairment. There is evidence of changed pain perception; however, pain is also underrecognized. Pain and cognitive impairment were examined in a national cohort of older persons assessed using the Home Care International Residential Assessment Instrument (interRAI-HC).

Methods:

Participants were 41 459 aged 65+ years receiving a mandated needs assessment to access publicly funded services. InterRAI-HC pain severity and Cognitive Performance Scale analyses covaried for age, gender, and ethnicity.

Results:

Milder pain prevalence increased with age, whereas daily severe-excruciating pain prevalence decreased with age. Daily severe-excruciating pain was reported by 18% of cognitively intact individuals decreasing to 8% in the severe cognitive impairment group. This relationship remained after covarying for age, sex, and ethnicity. Differences among dementia subtypes were found.

Conclusion:

Although severe pain reports decrease with increasing age and cognitive impairment, more nuanced research covarying for dementia severity and subtype is required.

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