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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 23:24 GMT
Nursing home residents 'in pain'
Nursing home
The report calls for more to be done to help nursing home residents
Many people living in nursing homes are enduring chronic pain, a study says.

The work by the Picker Institute Europe for the Patients' Association found nearly two out of five residents experienced constant pain.

The majority of the 77 people questioned said a doctor or nurse had never talked to them about how their pain could be relieved.

One 95-year-old woman told the researchers: "I will cry every night nearly, the pain is so bad".

It makes you wish you were dead, you wish you were and you think I wish it would happen soon - the older you get the damn worse it is.
79 year-old woman

Eight per cent described their pain as excruciating.

And where interviewees, who lived in 24 nursing homes across England, said there were discussions about pain management, they appeared to take place between the GP and the nursing staff in the home, rather than involving the residents themselves.

Chronic pain is a common problem for older people, which can significantly reduce quality of life.

The research, partly funded by Napp Pharmaceuticals, found 90% of those questioned said it limited the activities they could take part in and 38% said it made them feel depressed and miserable.

Pain also disturbed sleep and restricted mobility. Some people even said they had had suicidal thoughts.


The study found all but one person took medication to relieve their pain. The availability of other aids such as physiotherapy was limited.

The report says: "Chronic pain is widespread amongst the residents of care homes. This leads both staff and residents to accept pain as an inevitable consequence of growing old.

I expected to have some side-effects with my age. I wasn't surprised to get it, but some people seem to make such a lot of fuss about it. But it's natural. One has to accept it - it's one of those things
83 year-old woman

"The high level of stoicism amongst residents means that they often suffer in silence, yet care home staff are failing to ask residents about their pain."

Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association said: "The results of the research are disgraceful.

"It is outrageous that so many residents are left in chronic pain unnecessarily.

"It is unacceptable for health care and nursing staff not to be actively relieving chronic pain."

The Patients Association says care home staff should be much more proactive in managing and treating pain, and GPs should review medication more regularly.

'We will listen'

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern England, said: "This report exposes the high levels of unnecessary suffering being experienced by nursing home residents.

Older people end up 'cut off' from their GP of choice once they enter a care home and not given the same medical priority as people living in their own home
Deborah Klee, Help the Aged

"It is clear that action needs to be taken to stop older people being deprived of the best possible quality of life."

Deborah Klee, policy manager at Help the Aged, said: "It is the responsibility of local primary care trusts (PCTs) and GPs to ensure that older care home residents have access to specialist medical supervision, especially for long term conditions such as arthritis.

"Instead, older people end up 'cut off' from their GP of choice once they enter a care home and not given the same medical priority as people living in their own home."

Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Association, which represents 2,000 care providers including nursing homes, said: "We are always prepared to listen to patients' representatives.

"We will certainly talk to our members about it and see if there's anything we need to do to put in place some form of training."

But she added: "It's very important to us that nursing homes get the full support of the NHS and that hasn't always been the case."

Dr Graham Archard, of the Royal College of GPs, said the college was working with the Patients Association and the British Pain Society to produce guidelines on management of persistent pain.

He added: "Many people think they have to tolerate pain as a result of getting older but we want to dispel that belief.

"The vast majority of older people can receive significant help in controlling their pain or in making lifestyle changes to help reduce their pain and make living with pain more tolerable."

A Department of Health spokesman said all nursing homes should provide residents with access to any care they needed from hospitals and community health services, "according to their individual medical needs".

How one woman struggled to get pain relief

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