Aim. The aim of this study was to examine how older patients who had undergone hip surgery described their experience of pain.
Background. A verbal report of pain is considered to be the single most reliable indicator of a person's pain experience. When assessing pain, healthcare professionals must be able to interpret the content of pain reports in order to understand older patient's pain experiences.
Methods. The study was carried out in two orthopaedic and two elder care wards in a large university hospital in Sweden in 2000. Altogether, 38 patients with hip replacement (mean age = 75) and 22 patients with hip fracture (mean age = 81) took part. A face-to-face interview was conducted with each patient on the second day after operation. Data were transcribed and analysed using descriptive qualitative content analysis.
Findings. Participants expressed their pain in a nuanced and detailed way in everyday language. Four main themes with sub-themes emerged: (a) objectification (localizing; quantifying; characterizing; temporalizing); (b) compensating (substitution; picturing); (c) explaining (functionalizing pain and its relief; externalizing pain and its relief); (d) existentializing (present pain orientation; future pain orientation).
Conclusions. Exploring the ways older patients talk about pain is expected to result in a better understanding of the older patient's need of empathic individualized care and in the optimization of pain management.