"Factors affecting the severity of pain in the elderly include

"• complex manifestations of pain;

"• underreporting of pain;

"• concurrent problems and multiple diseases (comorbidities), which complicate diagnosis and treatment;

"• higher rates of medication side effects; and

"• higher rates of treatment complications (American Geriatrics Society, 2009).

"In general, these same factors also contribute to the documented undertreatment of pain in the elderly, along with the lack of an evidence base concerning the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic changes that occur with aging (Barber and Gibson, 2009). Similar to the situation with children in the past, elderly people rarely are included in clinical trials of medications, so clinicians have inadequate information about appropriate dosages and potential interactions with medications being taken for other chronic diseases (Barber and Gibson, 2009).

"A study of more than 13,000 people with cancer aged 65 and older discharged from the hospital to nursing homes found that, among the 4,000 who were in daily pain, those aged 85 and older were more than 1.5 times as likely to receive no analgesia than those aged 65-74; only 13 percent of those aged 85 and older received opioid medications, compared with 38 percent of those aged 65-74 (Bernabei et al., 1998). (A similar excess risk of receiving no analgesia was found among African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians compared with whites.)"


Institute of Medicine. "Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 2011.