Pain major contributing factor for severe behaviours in dementia

Existing or undiagnosed pain has been identified as a major factor in severe behavioural symptoms associated with dementia, according to a leading dementia care specialist, HammondCare.

Pain was the number one contributing factor to severe behaviours, identified in over 65 per cent of cases by consultants working for HammondCare’s Dementia Centre.

The other leading factors identified were environment (60 per cent), limited life and social history (38 per cent), limited carer knowledge (38 per cent) and depression (21 per cent).

Pain an enormous issue

Speaking during National Pain Week (25-31 July), Head of the Clinical Governance for the Dementia Centre, A/Prof Stephen Macfarlane, said it was common to find that where pain contributed to behaviours involving aggression, agitation and anxiety for people living with dementia, that once it was addressed, these behaviours were significantly reduced.

“Pain is an enormous issue for people living with dementia and also for older people generally and is often undiagnosed as a contributing factor to behaviours,” A/Prof Macfarlane said.

Pain not recognised

A/Prof Colm Cunningham, Director of HammondCare’s Dementia Centre and co-author of Intervene: Pain care for older people and people with dementia(HammondCare Media, July 2016), said the evidence is overwhelming that pain remains a major issue in aged care, that it is poorly understood and often inadequately managed.

In the introduction to Intervene, A/Prof Cunningham says: “While pain affects a significant proportion of older people, it is often not recognised, understood or effectively treated. For some people with dementia, pain is internalised or expressed in ways not normally associated with pain. This makes it essential to ensure that all those who care for older people and people with dementia, are able to recognise pain and manage it well.”