Pain Interference and Depressive Symptoms in Communicative People With Alzheimer's Disease: A Pilot Study

Aging Ment Health. 2018 Jun;22(6):808-812. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2017.1318258. Epub 2017 May 3.


Objectives: To examine pain interference in verbally communicative older adults with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD) and to examine the association of pain interference with cognitive function and depressive symptoms.

Method: For this pilot study, we used a cross-sectional design to examine pain interference (Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form), cognitive function (Mini-Mental State Exam), and depressive symptoms (15-item Geriatric Depression Scale) in 52 older (≥65) communicative adults with AD who reported being free from chronic pain requiring daily analgesics.

Results: Pain was reported to interfere with general activity (13.5%), mood (13.5%), walking ability (13.5%), normal work (11.5%), enjoyment of life (11.5%), relationships with other people (9.6%), and sleep (9.6%). Pain interference was significantly positively correlated with both cognitive function (rs = 0.46, p = 0.001) and depressive symptomology (rs = 0.45, p = 0.001), indicating that greater reported pain interference was associated with better cognitive function and more depressive symptoms.

Conclusion: Among older people with AD who report being free from chronic pain requiring daily analgesics, 2 in 10 are at risk of pain interference and depressive symptoms. Those with better cognitive function reported more pain interference and depressive symptoms, meaning pain is likely to be under-reported as AD progresses. Clinicians should regularly assess pain interference and depressive symptoms in older persons with AD to identify pain that might be otherwise overlooked..

Keywords: Dementia; community dwelling adults with dementia; end-of-life; pain assessment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease* / epidemiology
  • Communication
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pilot Projects