Pain assessment in elderly adults with dementia

Lancet Neurol. 2014 Dec;13(12):1216-27. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(14)70103-6. Epub 2014 Nov 10.


Chronic pain is highly prevalent in the ageing population. Individuals with neurological disorders such as dementia are susceptible patient groups in which pain is frequently under-recognised, underestimated, and undertreated. Results from neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies showing that elderly adults are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of pain are of additional concern. The inability to successfully communicate pain in severe dementia is a major barrier to effective treatment. The systematic study of facial expressions through a computerised system has identified core features that are highly specific to the experience of pain, with potential future effects on assessment practices in people with dementia. Various observational-behavioural pain assessment instruments have been reported to be both reliable and valid in individuals with dementia. These techniques need to be interpreted in the context of observer bias, contextual variables, and the overall state of the individual's health and wellbeing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / epidemiology
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Pain Measurement / psychology*