Improved management of chronic pain can significantly reduce disability in older adults, according to the latest issue of the WHAT’S HOT newsletter from The Gerontological Society of America (GSA).

Based largely on presentation highlights from GSA’s 63rd Annual Scientific Meeting in November 2010, the current WHAT’S HOT examines the impact of pain in older adults, strategies for managing pain and preserving function, and methods to improve the assessment and management of pain for residents in long-term care facilities, including those who have dementia. Support for this publication was provided by McNeil Consumer Healthcare.

“Under-treatment of chronic pain in older adults is common, contributing to unnecessary suffering,” said Deborah Dillon McDonald, R.N., Ph.D., of the University of Connecticut School of Nursing, who served as an advisor for the issue. “Older adults and practitioners need to work together to find optimal multi-modal pain management plans that reduce pain and avoid adverse events.”

The newsletter points out that pain is a signal that something is wrong, and that reports of pain should not be dismissed simply because the patient is older. Furthermore, the issue demonstrates that chronic musculoskeletal pain is associated with numerous problems, such as increased disability and sleep difficulty in older people. The research and national initiatives presented therein underscore the importance of good pain management in older adults and explore strategies for optimizing patient well-being.

Among the most successful methods for pain treatment are physical activity, pain protocol interventions and medication use. Additional topics raised in the newsletter focus on ongoing activities to support safe selection and use of analgesics (including appropriate acetaminophen dosage), which is important to communicate to multiple stakeholders, including patients, caregivers, health care providers, policymakers and researchers.

An electronic version of the newsletter is available for purchase at www.geron.org/WhatsHot.

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society—and its more than 5,200 members—is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Association of Gerontology in Higher Education.

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