I read a post on McKnights.com last week that so distressed me I had to wait a week before I was ready to blog about it. The article, Nurses, Relatives Underestimate Pain in Nursing Home Residents, Study Finds, reports the results of a five-year study in the Netherlands that shows a tendency to underestimate pain, particularly in people with cognitive impairment. What got me as agitated as a dementia resident with undiagnosed pain is that I’ve been reading about these studies since I got into the field over a decade ago.
A quick Google search of “pain management” and “nursing homes” turns up page after page of information about the consistent lack of recognition and treatment of pain. On the first search results page is a 2001 Brown University study noting “woefully inadequate pain management.” Also on the first search results page are numerous studies suggesting ways to alleviate this problem (for example, tips from the End-of-Life Palliative Information Center and a 2002 National Institute of Health report).
On April 10, 2009, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new quality of care guidelines for pain management. I’m hopeful this will help to change the culture of tolerating pain in the residents under our care.
The next headline I’d like to read is: Treatable Pain Virtually Eliminated Among Nursing Home Residents Worldwide