Prevalence of Pain on Admission by Level of Cognitive Impairment in Nursing Homes

J Pain Res. 2020 Oct 20;13:2663-2672. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S270689. eCollection 2020.


Purpose: To provide contemporary estimates of pain by level of cognitive impairment among US nursing home residents without cancer.

Methods: Newly admitted US nursing home residents without cancer assessed with the Minimum Data Set 3.0 at admission (2010-2016) were eligible (n=8,613,080). The Cognitive Function Scale was used to categorize level of cognitive impairment. Self-report or staff-assessed pain was used based on a 5-day look-back period. Estimates of adjusted prevalence ratios (aPR) were derived from modified Poisson models.

Results: Documented prevalence of pain decreased with increased levels of cognitive impairment in those who self-reported pain (68.9% no/mild, 32.9% severe) and those with staff-assessed pain (50.6% no/mild, 37.2% severe staff-assessed pain). Relative to residents with no/mild cognitive impairment, pharmacologic pain management was less prevalent in those with severe cognitive impairment (self-reported: 51.3% severe vs 76.9% in those with no/mild; staff assessed: 52.0% severe vs 67.7% no/mild).

Conclusion: Pain was less frequently documented in those with severe cognitive impairment relative to those with no/mild impairments. Failure to identify pain may result in untreated or undertreated pain. Interventions to improve evaluation of pain in nursing home residents with cognitive impairment are needed.

Keywords: cognitive impairment; dementia; nursing homes; pain.

Grant support

This research was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NR016977) to Dr. Lapane.