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J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2010 Oct;11(8):579-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2009.11.014. Epub 2010 Jun 30.

Pain and its treatment in older nursing home hospice/palliative care residents.

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Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.



The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence of pain, describe its treatment, and determine factors associated with any pain in older residents assigned to a hospice specialty unit bed or receiving services from a hospice/palliative care/end-of-life special program in US nursing homes.


Cross-sectional study of data from the 2004 National Nursing Home Survey.


The setting was 1174 US nursing homes.


Participants were 303 sampled patients, 65 years or older, representing 33,413 individuals receiving hospice/palliative care.


Facility staff was asked if, in the past 7 days, the resident had reported or shown evidence of pain. Medication use data were derived from medication administration records. Information about demographics and health status was derived from Minimum Data Set records.


Cancer was the primary diagnosis in only 11.4% of residents. Overall 36.6% had any pain in the previous week. Among those with any pain, 86.4% received some analgesic; specifically, 65.5% received opioids, whereas 31.7% received acetaminophen. Those with any pain compared with those without pain had shorter lengths of stay in hospice/palliative care (mean 123 days versus 161 days, P < .01), were more likely to be incontinent of bowel (76.2%, versus 60.3%, P < 0.01) and bladder (84.5% versus 71.8%, P = 0.01).


Pain symptoms were present in more than one third of older nursing home hospice/palliative care residents despite the use of opioids in two thirds of those who had reported or shown evidence of any pain. Additional future studies are needed to improve the management of pain in older residents receiving hospice/palliative care in US nursing homes.

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