October 1st, 2019

// Campaign launched to improve quality of life for people with severe dementia

Campaign launched to improve quality of life for people with severe dementia

#SeePainMoreClearly shares evidence-based practices

TORONTO, Oct. 1, 2019 /CNW/ - A campaign launched today on National Seniors Day and the International Day of Older Persons aims to improve quality of life for people with severe dementia who live in long-term care by sharing best approaches for evaluating and managing pain in these residents.

"Pain is under-assessed and under-treated in long-term care because people with severe dementia have limited ability to communicate what they are feeling," says Dr. Thomas Hadjistavropoulos, who holds a Research Chair in Aging and Health at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. 

Under-recognized pain can have serious consequences. Pain in dementia can lead to agitation and aggression. When these types of behaviours are misattributed to a psychiatric problem, people are often given psychotropic rather than analgesic medications, says Dr. Hadjistavropoulos. Research has shown that psychotropic medications may increase the risk of earlier death in these individuals, he says.

To raise awareness, he created a social media campaign in collaboration with national and provincial organizations as well as older adults, caregivers and health-care professionals. #SeePainMoreClearly includes a video and a website with information and resources, such as a pain checklist for seniors with limited ability to communicate, developed by Dr. Hadjistavropoulos's team. 

Dr. Hadjistavropoulos says he took the unorthodox step of launching a grassroots campaign because he wanted to go directly to health professionals, family caregivers, people with dementia and the general public. Typically, he says, it takes many years to disseminate research findings in a way that they become part of widespread practice. 

"We want to share evidenced-based practices now to optimize the quality and frequency of pain assessments. Overworked frontline staff want to do the best for their patients but are constrained by limited resources. Moreover, there's a clear need for continuing pain education for staff to make sure everyone is familiar with the newest methods." The website also has links to resources for families and patients.

Filmed with actors in Regina, the video depicts a scene involving health professionals and a long-term care resident living with dementia. It is based on Dr. Hadjistavropoulos's research and work in applied health psychology. The video campaign is supported by AGE-WELL and the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan. The Canadian Association on Gerontology and the Chronic Pain Network are partners in the campaign as well.

"By raising awareness, we have a real opportunity to make sure that people with late-stage dementia get the treatment they need, when they need it."

Dr. Hadjistavropoulos points to studies that indicate that people living with severe Alzheimer's are less likely to receive an analgesic medication than older adults in general. 

"We aim to address under-recognized pain and, in turn, this will mean improved quality of life for long-term care residents, fewer incidents of agitated behaviour and lower stress levels for hard-working staff and for families." 

As part of his work with the AGE-WELL network, Dr. Hadjistavropoulos co-leads a research team that is developing technology-based solutions to improve pain management in long-term care residents who are living with dementia. This includes knowledge mobilization efforts using social media.


AGE-WELL NCE Inc. is Canada's Technology and Aging Network. The pan-Canadian network brings together researchers, older adults, caregivers, partner organizations and future leaders to accelerate the delivery of technology-based solutions that make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadians. AGE-WELL researchers are producing technologies, services, policies and practices that improve quality of life for older adults and caregivers, and generate social and economic benefits for Canada. AGE-WELL is funded through the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence program. www.agewell-nce.ca.

SOURCE AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE)


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