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

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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).


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.


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.


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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