Understanding nurses' decisions to treat pain in nursing home residents with dementia

Res Gerontol Nurs. 2013 Apr;6(2):127-38. doi: 10.3928/19404921-20130110-02. Epub 2013 Jan 17.


Nursing home (NH) residents with dementia continue to receive inadequate pain treatment. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how nurses make decisions to pharmacologically treat pain in NH residents with dementia. Using Grounded Dimensional Analysis, 15 in-depth interviews were conducted with 13 nurses from four skilled nursing facilities in Wisconsin. Nurses experienced varying levels of certainty regarding suspected pain in response to particular resident characteristics and whether pain was perceived as visible/obvious or nonvisible/not obvious. Nurses felt highly uncertain about pain in residents with dementia. Suspected pain in residents with dementia was nearly always conceptualized as a change in behavior to which nurses responded by trialing multiple interventions in attempts to return the resident to baseline, which despite current recommendations, did not include pain relief trials. Residents with dementia were described as being at greatest risk for experiencing underassessment, undertreatment, and delayed treatment for pain

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Dementia / nursing*
  • Inpatients
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Nursing*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Wisconsin