If you observe a change, consider pain.


Everyone experiences pain at various times in their life, including people with dementia. However, people with dementia are often unable to verbally communicate their pain. Mis-diagnosis and undertreatment of pain is distressing for the person and can result in changes in behaviour and reduced quality of life.

Having trained staff and pain assessment tools to effectively identify and respond to a person’s pain is critical to deliver quality care to people living in residential aged care. This is particularly important as up to 50% of residents in aged care have a diagnosis of dementia.

The Intervene Phase 1 project, carried out at HammondCare’s Dementia Centre, examined what gaps exist to deliver best practice pain management for people living with dementia in residential aged care.

“The intervene phase one project demonstrated that changing staff attitudes and ultimately a work place culture reflected in day to day practice, requires more than knowledge of evidence-based pain management alone, “explains Professor Colm Cunningham, lead Investigator of the Intervene Project.

“Phase 2 of the project has allowed us to co-develop and test interventions that address issues identified in Phase 1 with staff in residential aged care.”

Phase 2 of the Intervene project, funded by the CDPC, was an implementation project designed to address the organisational cultural barriers to pain management. The research team worked with staff at four residential aged care sites in NSW and Victoria to examine current pain management procedures and identify strategies for improvement.

A major output of the project has been the development of a series of three pain education videos developed in consultation with healthcare professionals working in aged care as well as members of the Consumer Advocacy Group.

“We aim to integrate the education videos into our staff orientation process for staff joining the service.” Multi-disciplinary team member

‘I believe the Intervene education videos are an excellent tool for health care professionals, be it in a hospital setting, residential care facility as well as for any staff doing home visits. They can be viewed in one’s free time, or as part of Induction/Training; and they enable doctors, nurses, OTs, physios, dentists, and others, to better diagnose, manage and treat pain,’ said Danijela Hlis, research team member and advocate for people with dementia, especially those from culturally diverse backgrounds.

The education videos, found here, provide aged care staff with a clear process for management of pain and to address an inconsistent understanding of how to use the Abbey Pain Scale for the identification of pain. The videos are 4-7 minutes in length each and address topics of:

  1. Pain in dementia and aspects of pain management
  2. Identification and assessment of pain
  3. Reassessment and monitoring of pain

Additional resources and a final report of the project findings are currently in development.