Exploring the prevalence of and factors associated with pain: a cross-sectional study of community-dwelling people with dementia

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Few pain studies have made community-dwelling people with dementia (PWD) their focus. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of pain among this patient population and to explore medication use. Moreover, we sought to investigate patient and caregiver variables associated with the presence of pain. Community-dwelling PWD and their caregivers were recruited between May 2009 and July 2012 from outpatient memory clinics in Northern Ireland to take part in a face-to-face structured interview with a researcher. Patients' cognitive status and presence of depression were established. A full medication history was taken. Both patients and caregivers were asked to rate patients' pain, at the time of the interview and on an average day, using a 7-point verbal descriptor scale. From the 206 patients who were eligible to take part, 75 patient-caregiver dyads participated in the study (participation rate = 36.4%). The majority of patients (92.0%) had dementia classed as mild or moderate. Pain was commonly reported among the sample, with 57.3% of patients and 70.7% of caregivers reporting patient pain on an average day. Significant differences were found between patients' and caregivers' reports of pain. Two-fifths of patients (40.0%) were prescribed analgesia. Antipsychotic, hypnotic and anxiolytic drug use was low, whereas antidepressant drugs were prescribed more commonly. Presence of pain was unaffected by dementia severity; however, the use of prescribed analgesic medication was a significant predictor of the presence of pain in these patients, whether reported by the patient or their caregiver 'right now' or 'on an average day' (P < 0.001). Patient and caregiver recruitment was challenging, and remains a barrier to research in this area in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-282
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number3
Early online date24 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 04 Apr 2016


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