The Portal of Geriatrics Online Education

Pain and Aging: Challenges and Barriers to Managing Pain in Older Adults


Pain and Aging: Challenges and Barriers to Managing Pain in Older Adults

University of Iowa College of Nursing
Hartford Geriatric Nursing Initiative (HGNI)
John A. Hartford Foundation
POGOe Id: 
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Date Reviewed/Updated for Clinical Accuracy: 
CME available CME credits available

This is the first of three slide presentations with accompanying audio lectures by Keela Herr, PhD, RN, FAAN, AGSF, of the University of Iowa College of Nursing. 

Dr. Herr was sponsored by The University of Minnesota Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence and the American Academy of Pain Medicine/Pfizer Visiting Professorship in Pain Medicine to consult with faculty and students and present three formal lectures on the following topics:

  • Pain and Aging
  • Recognizing and Assessing Pain in Cognitively Impaired Older Adults
  • Pharmacologic Management of Persistent Pain in Older Adults.
Educational objectives: 
  • Identify challenges and barriers that impact quality pain care in older adults.
  • Discuss strategies for improving pain management in older persons.
Additional information/Special implementation requirements or guidelines: 

Integration of non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic strategies.

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Conflict of Interest Disclosure: 
Yes, I (we) have conflict of interest to disclose.
Conflict Description: 
The American Academy of Pain Medicine/Pfizer Visiting Professorship sponsored these lectures.
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Suggested Citation:
Pain and Aging: Challenges and Barriers to Managing Pain in Older Adults. POGOe - Portal of Geriatrics Online Education; 2011 Available from:


Submitted by on

This audio presentation on the chalenges and barriers for effective pain management in the older adults by Keelar is very enriching and highly educative. The major take home for me is that older adults with chronic pain had been undertreated for several reasons which include provider factor- lack of experience and education, Systemic factor the believe that older adult should not be feeling much pain, or are not  different regulations on medication prescription, fear of litigations, fears of side effects of medication, and patient factor- believe that providers know s what is best for them, failure to express pain, fear of being labelled as an addict or fear of the addictive nature of some opioids anagesics. The speaker enumerated the importance of removing these barriers and provide optimal pain relief to the older adults suffering from chronic pain. She emphasized the importance of education on pain to the providers, the staff, patients and caregivers. She stressed the importance of institutionalized pain assessment in the elderly that procedures for pain assessments should be established, by routine screening and evaluation of pain, documentation. Staff education, needs for change champions to sparehead the educational initiatives and the role of quality improvement and assurance to follow up evaluation with patients, audit the charts and provide feedback and finally call for administrative support and committment because the leaders would be the ones that would provide most of the resources needed by the staff. In summary, the chronic pain of theolder adults cannot be cured but combination of interventions (non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic) should be used to relieve their pain to a fuctional level. Individual patients should set the goal for which he/she would be able to perform functions important to him/her.