The Abbey pain scale: a 1-minute numerical indicator for people with end-stage dementia

Int J Palliat Nurs. 2004 Jan;10(1):6-13. doi: 10.12968/ijpn.2004.10.1.12013.


The need for a specialized clinical regimen for patients with dementia who require palliative care has only recently been recognized. Structured approaches to palliative care are not well developed. The recognition and treatment of pain is an important part of this management risk. However, pain is consistently underdiagnosed and undertreated in this population. A factor contributing to this has been a lack of appropriate tools to help recognize and document pain. This study sought to develop and validate an easy-to-use pain scale for use in residential aged care homes. The tool was developed with residents with end- or late-stage dementia who were unable to articulate their needs, identified by the registered nurses who knew them. Results showed that following pain-relief intervention the average pain score recorded using the scale fell by more than half. A paired Student's t-test showed the reduction to be highly significant (P<0.001). Validity and internal reliability, assessed by calculating Gamma and Cronbach's alpha, were found to be satisfactory. Qualitative evidence gathered from users of the scale indicated that it was considered a useful clinical device that could be completed within one minute. Further analysis of the use of the scale in clinical settings, testing of inter-rater reliability and examination of the limitations found in this study will commence early in 2004.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Australia
  • Dementia / complications*
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Kinesics
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Nursing Assessment / methods
  • Nursing Assessment / standards
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Nursing Homes
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff / psychology
  • Observer Variation
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Pain Measurement / nursing
  • Pain Measurement / standards
  • Psychometrics
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Terminal Care*
  • Time Factors
  • Verbal Behavior