Improved decision support in the assessment and management of pain for people with dementia in hospital

Closs, S.J. et al. NIHR. Published online: October 2016

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It is difficult for people with dementia to communicate their pain to health-care professionals. Pain often has damaging effects on mental and physical health, and research has shown that pain is often poorly managed in people with dementia in hospital.

We aimed to develop a new system that would help staff to manage pain. To this end, we first identified any accurate and reliable pain assessment tools available for use with hospital patients who have dementia. We then explored how pain is currently recognised, assessed and managed in people with dementia in four hospitals in England and Scotland.

We found 28 pain assessment tools which had been reviewed, but none had been tested rigorously. Seven had potentially useful features, but no single tool could be recommended for wider use. The 11 hospital wards studied were all different, with their own complex pain assessment and management practices. Information from different staff and carers was produced at different times and in different formats, and was recorded in separate documents. This information was mentally pulled together into an ‘overall picture’ of pain by each staff member for each individual patient.

We suggest developing a combined education package and electronic health record, the Pain And Dementia Decision Support (PADDS) intervention, to help staff recognise, assess and manage pain. This should incorporate carer input, staff narratives, pain histories, intensity assessments, medication and other interventions provided, and present an overall picture of pain in an integrated and easily accessible visual format. This will require thorough development and testing.

Read the full report here

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