Pharmacological approaches for the management of persistent pain in older adults: What nurses need to know

Fabio Guerriero, Ruth Bolier, Janet H.Van Cleave, M. Cary Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current article addresses pharmacological treatment issues regarding the management of persistent pain in later life, which is a worldwide problem associated with substantial disability. Recommendations from guidelines were reviewed and data are presented regarding the benefits and risks of commonly prescribed analgesic medications. The evidence base supports a stepwise approach with acetaminophen as first-line therapy for mild-to-moderate pain. Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are not recommended for long-term use. In properly selected older patients, opioid drugs should be considered if pain is not adequately controlled. Careful surveillance to monitor for benefits and harms of therapy is critical, given that advancing age increases risk for adverse effects. Key aspects of the pain care process that nurses routinely engage in are covered, including conducting pain assessments prior to initiating therapy, addressing barriers to effective pain care, educating patients and family members about the importance of reducing pain, discussing treatment-related risks and benefits, and formulating strategies to monitor for treatment outcomes. Finally, a case is presented to illustrate issues that arise in the care of affected patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-57
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of gerontological nursing
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Gerontology


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