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Pain Assessment and Management in the Older Adult

2.2 Contact Hours / 0.22 AOTA CEUs
Target Audience: Nurses, healthcare professionals, and interested individuals
Purpose/Goal: The outcome of this course is for the learner to describe an overview of pain and its effective management, including cultural considerations and pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic management techniques.
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Pain is a symptom that signals distress in virtually every population and every age. To provide quality care to aging adults, healthcare providers must be particularly skilled at assessing pain, understanding misconceptions of pain management, addressing cultural issues in pain management, and providing effective pain therapies.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Define pain.
  • Describe how pain impacts the aging adult.
  • State common misconceptions and facts about pain.
  • Explain the physiology of pain.
  • Identify the four types of pain.
  • Describe pain behaviors.
  • Explain the impact of culture on expressions of pain and on pain management.
  • Identify the key elements of pain assessment.
  • Describe barriers to effective pain management.
  • Describe key elements of the pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic management of pain.

Pain is a symptom that signals distress in virtually every population at every age. However, among older adults, a higher incidence of chronic conditions places them at increased risk for pain. In addition, there are many barriers to effective pain management in this age group. Nurses, physicians, psychologists, social workers, spiritual advisors, alternative and complementary therapists, and other allied health professionals are among the individuals who may assist clients in the assessment and treatment of pain, and they are responsible to accurately assess and appropriately treat this symptom.

Pain exists within the context of a culture, as well as within personal, physical, and psychological history. Its treatment, therefore, should be multidisciplinary. Pain is not part of growing old. Many healthcare providers see aging adults only when they are in need of intense medical or nursing care, but these individuals do not represent “normal” aging. While it is not part of normal aging, pain is a common problem among older adults (Meiner, 2014).

Pain research and literature on pain management have greatly increased during the last decades but have been limited primarily to young clients and those with cancer in acute care settings. Pain is often still unrecognized and undertreated in the elderly individual. Nurses may tend to inadequately manage pain because of a fear of patients’ addiction and complications from analgesic medications.

Undertreated pain places individuals at risk. It can (American Pain Society, 2018; Meiner, 2014; Pasero & McCaffery, 2011)

  • increase release of cortisol, epinephrine, growth hormone, catecholamines, and glucagon,
  • inhibit the immune system,
  • impair recovery from injury or procedures,
  • result in sleep disturbances,
  • increase the risk of premature death,
  • increase oxygen demand, cardiac workload, heart rate, hypertension, and coagulation,
  • increase the experience of fear, anxiety, anger, or depression,
  • increase respiratory dysfunction,
  • decrease gastrointestinal motility,
  • increase muscle spasms, fatigue, immobility,
  • decrease urinary output,
  • reduce cognitive function,
  • increase mental confusion,
  • diminish quality of life, and
  • increase confusion.

Pain in the cognitively impaired older adult and pain as it relates to gender are both relatively new fields of inquiry. Elderly people (usually defined as those over the age of 65) are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. Their care offers unique challenges to healthcare providers and requires that special attention be paid to pain management, cognitive impairment, end-of-life issues, and palliative (comfort) care vs. cures.

Complete the course post exam (CE Test) with a score of 80% or greater. Complete all fields of the course evaluation form. Certificate of Completion is provided once the course post exam is passed per criteria above.

  • American Board of Managed Care Nursing
    The American Board of Managed Care Nursing recognizes all of ALLEGRA Learning Solutions' ANCC accredited courses for continuing education credit for Certified Managed Care Nurses (CMCNs).
  • ANCC - American Nurses Credentialing Center
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited with distinction as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.
  • AOTA - American Occupational Therapy Association
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC, is an approved provider of continuing education for occupational therapists by the American Occupational Therapy Association. Approved Provider # 3166
  • ASWB - Association of Social Work Boards
    This course is approved by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program to be offered by ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC as an individual course. Individual courses, not providers, are approved at the course level. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. ACE course approval period: 04/22/2021-04/22/2024. Social workers completing this course receive the specified distance learning continuing education credits.
  • California Board of Registered Nursing
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider # CEP 14693 for the number of hours stated.
  • California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section
    The California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section accepts continuing education offered by CA-BRN approved providers.
  • District of Columbia Board of Nursing
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions (CE Provider # 50-12076) submits all continuing education records to CE BROKER after successful completion.
  • Florida Board of Nursing
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Board of nursing (CE Provider # 50-12076). Courses are automatically submitted to CE Broker.
  • Florida Board of Nursing - Certified Nursing Assistants
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions (CE Broker Provider # 50-12076) submits all continuing education records to CE Broker after successful completion.
  • Florida Board of Respiratory Care
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Board of Respiratory Care
  • Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Council of Dietetitics and Nutrition
  • Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
    ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is accredited as a provider of continuing education by the Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
  • NAADAC - The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors
    This course has been approved by ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC, as a NAADAC Approved Education Provider, for educational credits. NAADAC Provider #813, ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC is responsible for all aspects of their programming.


Practice Level:


Content Focus:

Professional Issues

Course Expires:

March 18, 2027

  • Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, RN-BC, HWNC-BC
  • Caroline Young, MPH
Jurisdictional Requirements:

Continuing education (CE) licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, are not well defined, and may change. These CE requirements may vary in terms of the number of hours required to the types of courses that must be taken. ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC recommends you contact your licensing board or accrediting organization for the latest continuing education requirements of your state or territory. Compliance with CE requirements is the responsibility of the individual health care provider. Health care providers must understand the CE requirements in their jurisdictions, and be sure they are up-to-date on any rule changes that affect their license. For further information, please see our Accreditation Information.

Accommodations for Disabilities:

Every effort will be made to accommodate your special needs. To request accommodations, please contact us.

Conflicts of Interest and Relevant Financial Relationships:

The authors/planning committee members have no conflicts of interests or relevant financial relationships to declare relevant to this activity.

Commercial Support:

No commercial support has been received for this activity.

Non-endorsement of products:

Accreditation refers to recognition of continuing nursing education only and does not imply ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC approval or endorsement of any commercial product.

Off-label Use of Products:

None of the authors intend to discuss off-label uses of drugs, mechanical devices, biologics, or diagnostics not approved by the FDA for use in the United States.