The objectivity and subjectivity of pain practices in older adults with dementia: A critical reflection

Nursing Inquiry 28 (4):e12397 (2021)
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Providing nursing care for people with dementia residing in long-term care facilities poses specific challenges regarding pain practices. With underlying communication barriers unique to dementia pathologies, this population is often unable to communicate verbal sentiments and descriptions of pain. In turn, nurses caring for older persons with dementia have difficulty assessing, managing and treating pain. Objectivity is an imperative factor in healthcare pain practices; however, it is difficult to objectively evaluate someone who cannot accurately communicate their experience of pain. Therefore, the authors believe that subjectivity is also an essential part of evaluating the person with dementia's experience of pain. In this critical reflection, the authors explore objectivity and subjectivity in relation to pain practices for dementia in long-term care. A historical summary of pain is provided outlining the evolution of objectivity and subjectivity related to pain practices. The authors discuss the complexities of assessing and managing pain and offer a new perspective about the role of objectivity (and co-existence of subjectivity) for nurses treating pain in the older adults with dementia.



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Ellie Macleod
Glasgow Caledonian university

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