Outcomes of Pain in Frail Older Adults With Dementia


Address correspondence to Kenneth Brummel-Smith, MD, Providence Center on Aging, 3510 NE 122nd St., Suite 200, Portland, OR 97230. E-mail: kbrummel-smith@providence.org


OBJECTIVES: To describe the outcomes of pain in cognitively impaired older adults in a Program of All-inclusive Care for older people (PACE) setting and to determine whether pain and psychotropic drug use, behavioral disturbances, hospital, nursing facility, and emergency department use, or mortality increases with the level of pain reported.

DESIGN: Retrospective review of an observational cohort of patients with dementia.

SETTING: A first-generation PACE program located in Portland, Oregon. Patients with the diagnosis of dementia had been assessed for pain in a prior study.

PARTICIPANTS: One hundred fifty-four cognitively impaired subjects.

MEASUREMENTS: Standardized pain assessments were administered to cognitively impaired subjects between June and October 1998. After the pain assessment, information about mortality and healthcare use, including use of medication, was collected and analyzed. Subjects who reported moderate to severe pain were compared with demented subjects who reported no or mild pain.

RESULTS: There were no differences in patient characteristics (age, sex, functional limitations, disruptive behaviors, and incontinence), medications (pain and psychotropic), use (hospital, nursing home, or emergency department visit), or mortality by level of pain alone or by levels of pain and dementia together.

CONCLUSIONS: The study did not demonstrate that a single point-in-time measurement of pain in demented persons was associated with an increased rate of behavioral problems, narcotic use, or hospital or emergency department use over the following year. Prospective studies are needed that measure pain over time to determine more accurately the relationship between pain and negative outcomes in dementia.