Recognising pain in older adults living in sheltered accommodation: the views of nurses and older adults

Kerstin Blomqvist, Ingalill R. Hallberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Sixty-six randomly selected older adults and their contact nurses participated in interviews based on standardised assessments of pain and open-ended questions focusing how pain was expressed and recognised. The sample included older adults with normal as well as cognitively impaired function. Seventy-nine percent of older adults with normal cognition were often in pain. Contact nurses assessed pain in 57% of cognitively impaired older adults. The content in the statements showed that pain recognition was a communicative interactive process based on verbal and non-verbal expressions. The process comprised attempts to understand the cause and intention of the expression and to verify the presence of pain. Changes in mood, facial expressions and physiological responses were described less often by older adults than by their nurses. Contact nurses of cognitively impaired older adults judged immobility as the source of pain, that it was possible to see when the person was in pain and that pain was expressed by paralinguistic and body language more often than contact nurses of cognitively healthy older adults. Characteristics of nurses and older adults could facilitate or hinder pain recognition. The findings indicate a need for reflective discussions in the staff group focusing on how to perform systematic assessments of verbal and non-verbal expressions and of hindrances and facilitators for recognising pain in older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-318
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Nursing (30305)
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary (50901)


  • Cognitive impairment
  • Elderly
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Nursing care
  • Pain assessment


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