Pain in patients with dementia: A review of pain assessment and treatment challenges


  • Bettina S. Husebo
  • Wilco P. Achterberg
  • Frank Lobbezoo
  • Miriam Kunz
  • Stefan Lautenbacher
  • Judith Kappesser
  • Catalina Tudose
  • Liv Inger Strand



Pain represents a major treatment challenge in older people with dementia. The majority of healthy older people experience regular pain and around 50% take regular analgesics. Pain is likely to be equally prevalent in people with dementia, yet only a small minority are prescribed regular analgesics. This is a key issue since recent work has provided evidence that untreated pain may be a major contributor to reduced quality of life and increases the likelihood of emergence of behavioural and psychological symptoms such as agitation. Better assessment and treatment of pain may therefore substantially improve outcomes for people with dementia. In this context, we reviewed the literature and summarised the best available evidence regarding the frequency of pain and pain diagnosis in patients with dementia based on pain assessment and treatment recommendations for these individuals. Hardly any randomized, controlled studies of pain treatment efficacy in patients with dementia are available, with the consequence that most pain treatment recommendations are not based on the highest level of evidence.


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How to Cite

Husebo, B. S., Achterberg, W. P., Lobbezoo, F., Kunz, M., Lautenbacher, S., Kappesser, J., Tudose, C., & Strand, L. I. (2012). Pain in patients with dementia: A review of pain assessment and treatment challenges. Norsk Epidemiologi, 22(2).