Treatment of pain in European nursing homes: results from the Services and Health for Elderly in Long TERm Care (SHELTER) study

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013 Nov;14(11):821-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2013.04.009. Epub 2013 Jun 6.


Objective: To identify pharmacological and nonpharmacological pain management approaches and associated factors in nursing home residents across Europe.

Setting, participants, and measurements: Cross-sectional study with 4156 residents who were assessed using the interRAI instrument for Long Term Care Facilities (interRAI LTCF), including pharmacological and nonpharmacological pain management modalities. Those reporting pain were included in the analyses (n = 1900). A deeper analysis was performed for the subsample of residents who reported "current pain," defined as pain at least 1 day within the past 3 days (n = 838), and those who reported "current pain of moderate to severe intensity" (n = 590).

Results: Up to 24% of residents who reported pain did not receive any pain medication and up to 11% received it only PRN (as-needed basis), independent of current pain-intensity levels; 61% did not receive any nonpharmacological treatment and 21% received neither pharmacological nor nonpharmacological pain modalities. Considerable differences could be demonstrated across European countries. Factors positively associated with pharmacological pain management were being of female gender, reporting cancer, and having moderate or severe pain. High turnover rates of regular staff and low-to-moderate physicians' availability were negatively associated. Factors positively associated with nonpharmacological treatment were fractures and need of assistance in activities of daily living. Dementia, large nursing home facilities, above-average and high turnover rates of nursing staff, a low physicians' availability, and severe pain intensity were negatively associated.

Conclusion: Despite some advances in recent years, pain treatment in European nursing home residents remains to be suboptimal and requires further improvement.

Keywords: European; Pain; analgesic; long term care facilities; nursing home residents; occupational therapy; pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatment; physical therapy; therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care*
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors


  • Analgesics