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Seniors’ decision making about pain management


Margaret Ross, 1 Leyland Private, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1V0X8. E-mail:


Seniors’ decision making about pain management

Background. Muscoloskeletal pain is a problem with which many seniors must contend, many on a daily basis. Little is known, however, of the self-care decisions that seniors make regarding the management and control of this pain. These decisions can influence in a significant manner the delivery of health care to seniors and their overall health and well-being.

Purpose. The purpose of our exploratory-descriptive study was to investigate seniors’ decision making regarding the management and control of musculoskeletal pain by gathering data about the context of decision making, the types of decisions seniors made, their decisional conflict and the resources they used in decision making.

Methods. Focus groups and a mail-back questionnaire were used. Data were gathered in 1997 from a convenience sample of 50 seniors in Canada who experienced musculoskeletal pain of a noteworthy nature.

Results. Findings revealed that participants made decisions within a context of ageing and the health and social consequences of advancing age. The types of decisions they made included to ignore their pain and to use distraction. They also used exercise, the application of heat and cold, and medications to manage pain. Decisional conflict was minimal and consultation with family and friends superseded that with professionals.

Conclusions. This study contributed to knowledge of decision making in later life about health matters generally, and the management and control of pain specifically. Findings point to the resourcefulness of seniors with respect to self-care and decision making. Seniors want to make informed decisions. However, they need information about the risks and benefits of decisions.