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 Perception Poses Barrier To Pain Management In Long Term Care

​Perception is key when it comes to appropriate pain management in long term care settings, according to a recent study in the United Kingdom journal, Nursing Older People.

The study, which sought to identify barriers to pain management in nursing homes, found that a patient’s inability to communicate because of sensory or cognitive impairment could lead to a significant hurdle in relieving pain.

For example, the study found that a patient who is experiencing pain, but whose behavior is commonly associated with dementia, can be misleading to caregivers.

The study utilized reports from nurses working in selected long term care homes in Ireland, who noted that patients’ attitudes, such as stoicism and the need to hide their pain from others, were a significant barrier to managing pain appropriately.

“Patient-related barriers were seen as interfering more often with optimal pain management than organizational-related or caregiver-related barriers,” the authors of the study said.

The inability to complete pain scales and communication difficulties as a result of sensory impairment were also common barriers.

“It is therefore essential that patients are encouraged to verbalize their pain to family and care staff,” the researchers said.

The solution, the authors posit, is a targeted approach to addressing the identified barriers. The authors advocate ongoing education on pain for all caregivers working in long term care settings, with particular emphasis on the practical application of observational tools, such as pain scales for patients with dementia.

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