Nurses' perceptions of pain assessment and treatment in the cognitively impaired elderly. It's not a guessing game.
The purpose of the study was to describe nurses' perceptions regarding the assessment and treatment of pain in patients with late-stage dementia. Thirty nurses from six long-term care facilities were interviewed using a semistructured format for this qualitative study. Initial results were presented to a second group for validation and refinement of findings. The most commonly cited behaviors used to indicate discomfort were facial grimacing, restless body movement, change in behavior, moaning, and tense muscles. Psychotropic drugs were perceived to be commonly misused because behavior changes were seen as a psychiatric problem rather than a representation of the patient's unmet need. Nurses had positive feelings about using both narcotics and nonnarcotic analgesics with this population but believed both types of analgesics were underused. The most common concerns regarding the administration of narcotic analgesics to this population were falls, sedation, and constipation.