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dementia, older adults, pain management



  1. Elliott, Amanda Floetke
  2. Horgas, Ann L.


Background: Analgesic trials have been advocated as a means to reduce pain in persons with dementia (PWDs), but few systematic studies have been reported.


Objectives: The aims of this study were to assess the feasibility of conducting a repeated-measures study of pain in PWDs and to investigate the effect of the scheduled dosing of acetaminophen in reducing observable pain behaviors in community-dwelling PWDs.


Methods: A within-subjects ABAB withdrawal design was utilized in this pilot study, with data collected daily for 24 days. Two baseline (nontreatment) phases were alternated with two treatment phases to examine the effects of scheduled extended-release acetaminophen (1.3 g every 8 hr) in reducing pain-related behaviors. The sample consisted of 3 participants (2 women; mean age = 85 years; mean Mini-Mental State Examination score = 11.7) with osteoarthritis. Pain behaviors were measured during a daily, videotaped activity-based protocol designed to elicit pain.


Results: The results indicate that it is possible to conduct this type of intensive, daily pain investigation in community-dwelling older adults with moderate to severe dementia. Behavioral indicators of pain varied daily and in response to treatment. During treatment phases, pain behaviors decreased in both frequency and duration relative to the control and baseline phases and increased when treatment was withdrawn.


Discussion: Acetaminophen use reduced pain behaviors associated with musculoskeletal pain in this sample of PWDs. This provides preliminary evidence that acetaminophen is an effective pain reliever for this population. In addition, the study supports the use of a within-subjects design to examine daily variability in pain behaviors and to demonstrate treatment effects in PWDs.