The assessment of pain in older people

Royal College of Physicians, British Geriatrics Society and British Pain Society

Pain is under-recognised and under-treated in older people. National UK statistics have indicated that pain or discomfort was reported by about half of those over 65 years old, and 56% of men and 65% of women aged 75 years and over. Higher prevalence estimates are obtained from samples of institutionalised older people, where 45–83% of patients report at least one current pain problem.

Pain is a subjective, personal experience, and only known to the person who experiences it. The assessment of pain is particularly challenging in the presence of severe cognitive impairment, communication difficulties, or language and cultural barriers.

This Guidelines summary provides short statements for good practice, and includes an assessment algorithm.

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