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Authors

  1. Kirksey, Kenn M. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN
  2. McGlory, Gayle PhD, RN, CCRN, RN-BC
  3. Sefcik, Elizabeth F. PhD, RN, GNP-BC

Abstract

Older adults comprise approximately 50% of patients admitted to critical care units in the United States. This population is particularly susceptible to multiple morbidities that can be exacerbated by confounding factors like age-related safety risks, polypharmacy, poor nutrition, and social isolation. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to health conditions (heart disease, stroke, and diabetes) that put them at greater risk of morbidity and mortality. When an older adult presents to the emergency department with 1 or more of these life-altering diagnoses, an admission to the intensive care unit is often inevitable. Pain is one of the most pervasive manifestations exhibited by intensive care unit patients. There are myriad challenges for critical care nurses in caring for patients experiencing pain-inadequate communication (cognitively impaired or intubated patients), addressing the concerns of family members, or gaps in patients' knowledge. The purpose of this article was to discuss the multidimensional nature of pain and identify concepts innate to pain homeostenosis for elderly patients in the critical care setting. Evidence-based strategies, including an interprofessional team approach and best practice recommendations regarding pharmacological and nonpharmacological pain management, are presented.