Many older people in hospital experience pain. They are not always able to report the pain and it is sometimes overlooked.

To improve the quality of life of older people and prevent functional decline, pain should be identified, assessed and managed.

All healthcare professionals should be alert to the possibility of pain in older people. We should be prepared to treat the cause of pain and the pain itself.

This topic gives an overview of pain in older people. It recommends actions we and our organisations can take, in addition to health service policy and procedures, to provide quality care to older patients.

All Australian hospitals are being accredited under The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare’s (ACSQHC) National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. Each of the ten standards relate to optimising clinical care and better outcomes for all patients. While identifying and responding to issues of pain are not directly referred to within the NSQHSS, this topic highlights the need to approach the clinical issues older people face in hospital in a holistic and person centred way in order to identify and respond to multiple modifiable risk factors throughout their stay. Doing this will improve our systems, clinical care and ultimately the outcomes for older people to prevent falls and harm from falls (standard 10) and improve medication safety (standard 4) and prevent and manage pressure injuries (standard 8) and identify and respond to cognitive impairment (cognitive clinical care standard).

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