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An exploration of nursing home managers' knowledge of and attitudes towards the management of pain in residents with dementia


C. M. Hughes, BSc, PhD, Clinical & Practice Research Group, School of Pharmacy, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK. E-mail:



The aims of this study were to explore the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs that nursing home managers hold with regard to the assessment and management of pain in residents with dementia and to determine how these may be affected by the demographic characteristics of the respondents.


A questionnaire comprising six sections was mailed, on two occasions during March and April 2010, to 244 nursing home managers in Northern Ireland (representing 96% of the nursing homes in Northern Ireland).


The response rate was 39%. Nearly all respondents (96%) provided care to residents with dementia, yet only 60% of managers claimed to use pain treatment guidelines within their nursing home. Respondents demonstrated good knowledge about pain in residents with dementia and acknowledged the difficulties surrounding accurate pain assessment. Nursing home managers were uncertain about how to manage pain in residents with dementia, demonstrating similar concerns about the use of opioid analgesics to those reported in previous studies about pain in older people. Managers who had received recent training (p = 0.044) were less likely to have concerns about the use of opioid analgesia than those who had not received training. Respondents' beliefs about painkillers were largely ambivalent and were influenced by the country in which they had received their nursing education.


The study has revealed that accurate pain assessment, training of nursing staff and a standardised approach to pain management (the use of pain management guidelines) within nursing homes all have a significant part to play in the successful management of pain in residents with dementia. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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