Holler if it hurts? Strategies for identifying & assessing pain in people with dementia

Hello everyone,

Much research has shown that people with dementia are at an increased risk for having their pain under-assessed and under-treated, leading to serious physical and psychosocial consequences including:

  • Gait impairment (leading to increased fall risk)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Agitation
  • Physical combativeness
  • Wandering
  • Decrease in daily activities
  • Impaired cognition
  • Verbal aggression
  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Learned helplessness

(Shega J., Emanuel L., Vargish L., Levine S.K., Bursch H., Herr K., Karp J.F. & Weiner D.K.  (2007) Pain in persons with dementia: complex, common, and challenging. The Journal of Pain 8, 373-387.)

 If you and/or staff observe some of these behaviors in a resident with dementia, do not assume it is part of the disease. Rather, take some time to assess the person for pain.

While self-reporting pain-rating scales such as Verbal Rating Scales and Facial Pain Scales remain the ‘gold standard’ when assessing pain in older adults, people experiencing moderate to severe stages of dementia may be unable to communicate the existence and severity of their pain.

 A widely used tool called “PAINAD” (Pain Assessment in Advanced Dementia, developed by Victoria Warden, Ann C. Hurley, and Ladislav Volicer) can be used to identify and assess pain in older adults who are unable to verbally communicate. Click here for the tool: http://www.mghpcs.org/eed_portal/Documents/Pain/Critical_Care/Dementia_Pain_Tool.pdf

To use the tool, caregivers observe the patient during periods of activity and record behavioral indicators of pain:

  • breathing (normal, labored, noisy?)
  • negative vocalization (none, groaning, crying?)
  • facial expression (smiling, sad, grimacing?)
  • body language (relaxed, tense, pacing, rigid?), and
  • consolability (no need to console, distracted by voice/touch, unable to console?)

 Once you’ve identified and assessed the pain in a patient, you’ll need to plan an intervention. Some behaviors, such as verbal agitation, pacing and restlessness, improve most with pain treatment. Other behaviors such as hitting, kicking, scratching respond less to treatment.

We’ll discuss some pain interventions next week. In the meantime, don’t forget to send us your DICE examples to win a prize for your facility!!!

Have great week!

Decreasing use of antipsychotic medications….

We thought you would find this recent article interesting as you and your staff work to improve the lives of your residents with dementia and decrease the use of antipsychotic medications as much as possible. The article discusses the results of several research trials and offers some approaches you may like to try:

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/07/19/537907127/for-dementia-patients-engagement-can-improve-mood-and-quality-of-life

In addition, one of the nursing homes participating in our study, St. Mary’s Villa in Pennsylvania, sent us this tidbit about their use of aromatherapy:

Aromatherapy & tactile stimulation can be used as an activity intervention by spraying lavender scent in the air by using a diffuser in the immediate environment.  It can have a calming effect on residents (and staff too!) and create a relaxed atmosphere.  In addition, one can also massage a simple lotion into a resident’s hands.  This provides the resident with a human touch experience. 

Care plan snapshots: Making care plans useful

Developing and updating care plans to ensure they include the required information takes a lot of staff time and attention. Unfortunately, they don’t usually live up to their potential for day to day usefulness and practicality.

To help address this, we’ve developed a Care Plan Snapshot…a “Readers Digest” version of a care plan that highlights the key information that a GNA or other caregiver would find most helpful day to day. It includes short and long terms goal(s), guidance on ADL care that helps residents maintain or improve function, behavioral issues with suggested approaches to care, and motivational ideas based on a resident’s interests. All in just a few pages!

Below is an example of a Care Plan Snapshot for “Mr. WXYZ”, along with an example of a completed capability test for him, which guided the development of the care plan’s goals and ADL care approaches. We invite you to take a look, share with staff, and discuss how this might be beneficial. Feel free to use and adapt as you’d like for your facility. For example, if family members are involved with a resident’s care, you may want to add a section on what family members can do during visits to help their loved one meet his/her goals.

————————————————————————————————————————————

Capability Test for: Mr. WXYZ                                                     Date: July 19, 2017

Ask and encourage the resident to do each of the following:

  1. Range of Motion (ROM)
  • Full ROM to 180 degrees of abduction (hands over head) __1__ (1 point if yes, 0 if no.)
  • Full external rotation (hands behind head) _1____ (1 point if yes, 0 if no)
  • Full internal rotation and adduction (hands in small of back) __0__ (1 point if yes, 0 if no)
  1. Either lying or sitting, point and flex your toes, bend and straighten your knees, and/or if sitting, ask to march.
  • Able to flex ankle__1__ (1 point if yes, 0 if no)
  • Able to point toe__1___ (1 point if yes, 0 if no)
  • Able to bend and straighten knees ___1___ (1 point if yes, 0 if no)
  • Able to march ___1_(weak)_ (1 point if yes, 0 if no)
  1. Chair rise – observe to do this independently or how much help is needed (give up to 10 minutes to complete the task)
  • How many tries does it take? __0_ (Scoring: 1-3 tries= 1 point; > 3 tries = 0 points)
  • Do they use their arms? ___0___ (0 point if yes, 1 if no)
  • Can they make it to a full stand and stand independently for 1 minute? ___0__

(1 point if yes, 0 if no)

  1. Follow a one, two, or three step commands doing a functional task:

Ask the participant to take a towel, fold it in half, and put it on the table (bedside table or bed or whatever is available).

  • Follows a one-step verbal command __0____ (1point if yes, 0 if no)
  • Follows a two-step verbal command ___0____(1point if yes, 0 if no)
  • Follows a three-step verbal command ___0___ (1point if yes, 0 if no)
  • Follows a one-step visual/cueing command ___1___ (1 point if yes, 0 if no)
  • Follows a two-step visual/cueing command ___0___ (1point if yes, 0 if no)
  • Follows a three-step visual/cueing command ___0___ (1 point if yes, 0 if no)

Total Score:  7 (max = 16)

HIGHER SCORES ARE BETTER CAPABILITY

————————————————————————————————————————————

Care Plan Snapshot

Resident Name: Mr. WXYZ
Room number:  0A

 

Care Goals

Short term goal #1: Resident will attend at least one preferred activity each day to decrease boredom and restlessness
Short term goal #2: Resident will perform sit-to-stand exercises at least once daily with assistance from staff to increase strength, maintain ability to transfer, and decrease risk of falls
Short term goal #3: Resident will go outside at least once per day, weather permitting, with assistance from staff
Long-term goal: Resident will show an increase in expressions of wellbeing (smiling, laughing, engaging in activities) and a decrease in expressions of distress (agitation, restlessness, wandering and apathy).
Care Area Resident Responsibilities Staff Responsibilities
Physical

Activity/

Ambulation

Resident will self-propel in WC, perform sit-to-stand exercises with assistance daily, participate in at least one scheduled activity daily, visit outdoor courtyard once daily, and transfer out of WC and into chair for all meals with assistance

 

 

Staff will encourage resident to self-propel in WC, assist with sit-to-stand exercises after lunch daily, encourage and assist resident to attend at least one daily activity with staff; visit outdoor patio with assistance from staff once daily, and assist with transfer out of WC for all meals
Bathing/Grooming Resident will wash/dry face and upper body with visual cuing from staff

 

 

Staff will provide 1-step visual cuing and encouragement for resident to wash/dry face and upper body
Dressing Resident will dress upper body with visual cuing from staff and engage in AROM while getting dressed

e.g., wave to friend in the hallway, march knees up to hit GNA’s hands, swim strokes

 

Staff will provide 1-step visual cuing to assist resident in dressing upper body; assist resident to perform AROM while dressing using 1-step visual cuing; ask resident to lift legs to help dress lower body
Eating Resident will eat finger foods and use utensils as needed with visual cuing from staff

 

 

Staff will place one food on plate/in bowl at a time, cut foods as needed and provide finger foods to encourage independence; use visual cuing with utensils
Oral Care Resident will brush teeth twice each day with 1-step visual cuing from staff as needed

 

Staff will have supplies ready and provide 1-step visual cueing and encouragement
Toileting

 

Resident will assist with transfer to toilet

 

Staff will encourage toileting after meals or at designated intervals; use 1-step cues during transfers; monitor for skin breakdown
Behavioral Issues:  Restlessness, agitation; occasionally engages in disruptive vocalizations, apathetic
Related to: Schizophrenia; Alzheimer’s disease; difficulty adjusting to new surroundings
Approaches by staff:

  • Assess for boredom, pain or other behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia
  • Engage resident in sit-to-stand exercises, visits outside and other physical activities regularly
  • Provide consistency in care using same caregivers when possible; communicate successful strategies with other caregivers
  • When resident shows signs of boredom or agitation, attempt to engage him in one of his favorite activities, e.g., a game of horseshoes, going outside to courtyard, visit with receptionist
  • Respond calmly to resident during times of agitation, allow resident to vent feelings, and provide ample time for resident to respond to simple questions and direction from staff
  • Model behavior for resident
  • Offer choices to resident when available
 

Motivational ideas/Rewards:

 

(What are his interests, likes/dislikes, strengths? Who are his favorite caregivers?)

Mr. WXYZ loves to go outside and visit with his buddies. They like to talk about their time in the war. He also enjoys listening to jazz music, and it calms him down when he is agitated. His favorite GNA is Mary. He does not like eating in bed or playing games like BINGO, because they are for “old” people.

 

Best practice: Disruptive vocalizations

Disruptive vocalizations are any verbal noises (screaming, yelling, nonsense talking, cursing) which are generally considered unusual, inappropriate or are upsetting to others. Disruptive vocalizations may be the result of a person having unmet needs and not being able to express them to staff or may be due to too much or too little sensory stimulation.

So what should you do (or not do)  when a resident is making disruptive vocalizations?

Don’t  tell the person to “stop” or that their behavior is driving people to distraction.
Do listen to what the person is saying and see if you can identify any concrete need or request in the vocalization.

Some specific things you can try:

-Check for the presence of needed sensory aids (i.e. glasses, hearing aids) and provide them if missing.
Assess for too much (loud TV in room) or too little stimulation (resident is alone) in the environment and provide interventions based on the findings.
-Sing a favorite song with the resident (people are unable to sing and scream at the same time).