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Monitor / PAIN

Untreated, Chronic Pain Is a Major Problem for Nursing Home Residents

April 30, 2001|Jane E. Allen

Chronic, untreated pain is a major problem for sick or injured people at any stage of life, because it can lead to depression, reduced mobility and an overall lower quality of life. A new study has found that untreated pain is a major problem among the nation's 2.2 million nursing home residents, who are often too frail, sick and vulnerable to speak up.

Researchers at Brown University in Providence, R.I., found that 41.2% of U.S. nursing home residents continue to suffer from untreated pain, which they defined as daily, moderate to excruciating pain that persists two to six months after it was first evaluated.

In California, 44.4% of patients who were first assessed with pain in April 1999 had continued severe or worsening pain months later. Among California cancer patients in nursing care, 51.1% reported persistent severe pain, a higher figure than the national rate of 46.7%.

The true rates are probably higher, the authors said.

"We believe these results underestimate the true pain burden experienced by nursing home residents because the data were reported by nursing home staff rather than by patients," they wrote.

The study, which appeared in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assn., was based on information that nursing homes are required to report to federal health officials.

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