Pain in older adults with dementia: A survey across Europe on current practices, use of assessment tools, guidelines and policies

S. Zwakhalen, R. E. Docking, I. Gnass (Corresponding Author), E. Sirsch, C. Stewart, N. Allcock, P. Schofield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


We aimed to explore the existing use of pain assessment tools and guidelines, and develop understanding of the practical considerations required to facilitate their use within the nursing home, hospital and community settings.

A self-administered web-based survey was conducted with nurses, health and social care workers with an interest in the assessment of pain in older adults with cognitive impairment. The survey was distributed to participants in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

Only a minority of staff reported use of (inter-)national or local standards or specific pain assessment tools in daily practice. A range of tools were reported as being used, which varied across country. While participants generally reported that these pain assessment tools were easy/very easy to use, many participants reported that they were difficult to interpret. Assessment is generally performed whilst providing nursing care. This was highlighted in 70–80% of all participating countries. While many of these tools rely on facial expression of pain, facial expressions were considered to be the least useful in comparison to other items. Furthermore findings showed that nurses employed in long-term care settings did not feel that they were educated enough in pain assessment and management.

Our findings suggest that pain education is required across all countries surveyed. This should include a focus on guidelines and standards for assessment and subsequent management of pain. Findings suggest that clinical staff find interpreting facial expressions in relation to pain more difficult.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-373
Number of pages10
Issue number5
Early online date21 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Pain assessment
  • Frail elderly
  • Proxy assessment
  • Guidelines
  • Survey


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