Older adults are more likely than younger adults to experience pain due to chronic conditions. Across the nation nearly 50 percent of older adults are taking upwards of 10 different medications to treat chronic illnesses, known as polypharmacy, and many rely on prescription opioids for pain management that may be unsafe or even deadly. Unfortunately, with polypharmacy comes an increased risk for negative health outcomes, such as dangerous drug interactions. As the 65+ population continues to rise, frailty and chronic diseases associated with pain is likely to increase.
There are multiple barriers to the effective treatment of pain among older adults due to lack of training, poor assessment measures, misconceptions about tolerance and addiction to opioids, and inability to manage the pain. The dearth of treatment for pain often leads to poor health and quality of life for older adults, which can result in depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment, immobility, social isolation, and sleep disturbances. Therefore, healthcare professionals need to find better ways to optimize effective pain management in older adults.
The papers in this section represent our efforts to bring alternative perspectives to bear on issues related to pain management and to help establish the value of these perspectives to policymakers and the broader public. We welcome comments, critical or otherwise, from readers, which we will use to improve future versions of the reports and other materials as we update them on a continuing basis.