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Pain Pervades Nursing Homes

Kate Traynor

Nursing homes have a long way to go to bring their pain management practices up to the new Joint Commission standards.

According to a report in the April 25 Journal of the American Medical Association (PDF), nursing-home workers described 15 percent of their charges as having persistent pain. Forty-one percent of the patients who were in pain during a baseline assessment had severe pain two to four months later.

The researchers stressed that pain may be more widespread than the study indicates, because the data were reported by nursing-home workers, not patients.

Study data came from the Minimum Data Set, a national assessment form used by all nursing homes that house Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries. The study covered the 60 days before and after April 1, 1999. According to the researchers, 2.2 million people resided in nursing homes during that time.

These findings underscore the hard road ahead for nursing homes that must comply with the pain management standards put in place this past January by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. One requirement of the new standards is the provision of "appropriate" pain management, including periodic pain assessments, for all nursing-home residents.

A brief overview of pharmacists' potential role in meeting the standards appeared in the March 1 issue of AJHP.