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Revista de la Sociedad Española del Dolor

versión impresa ISSN 1134-8046


BAEZA, R. et al. Pain in the elderly and in patients with cognitive deficit. A DELPHI study. Rev. Soc. Esp. Dolor [online]. 2018, vol.25, n.5, pp.251-262. ISSN 1134-8046.


Many elderly people that live in nursing homes suffer from chronic pain and almost half of them may be affected by cognitive impairment. This situation reduces the possibility of communicating the pain that they suffer and may hinder its detection by health professionals who care them. The aim of the current study was to know the opinions and beliefs of healthcare workers who look after them on the presence of pain as well as the methods to assess it.

Material and methods:

Physicians, psychologists, physiotherapists, nurses and nurses assistants from 25 nursing homes of Catalonia were invited to participate. In the first phase 22 centers and 107 people participated. A questionnaire with 19 statements (16 assessed by Likert-like scale and 3 open questions) was used. In the second phase, a new questionnaire was prepared with the distribution of the answers of the first phase. In this phase, 19 centers (76 %) and 90 people (84 %) agreed to collaborate again.


A consensus (≥ 90 % of agreement) was reached in the following statements: a) Pain in the elderly is an exclusively physical symptom (disagree); b) Chronic pain of elderly cannot be treated (disagree); c) The lack of verbal communication to report pain in the elderly with cognitive impairment may convey to an inadequate treatment (agree); d) Pain may be equally evaluated in people with oral communication that in those who cannot do it (disagree); e) There are not enough tools for assessing pain in patients with cognitive impairment and limited communication (agree); f) Elderly people feel pain more frequently than younger people because it is the only way to feel alive (disagree). The variation index in the two phases was less than 0.04 and the Spearman analysis did not find any different answers in the different profile of health workers.


These results showed that health professionals believed that there is a lack of adequate tools to evaluate pain in their patients and that this situation may have deleterious effect for them and health professionals as well. It is suggested that the use of the observation of behavioral changes may be the best way to assess pain and that they should be included in the evaluation tools to be used in patients with communication disabilities.

Palabras clave : Delphi study; geriatric pain; pain assessment; patients with dementia; beliefs of health professionals.

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