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Pain Assessment in People with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities

Baldridge, Kathy H. MSN, RN, FNP-BC; Andrasik, Frank PhD

AJN, American Journal of Nursing: December 2010 - Volume 110 - Issue 12 - p 28-35
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000391236.68263.90
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OVERVIEW People with intellectual or developmental disabilities suffer from the same chronic diseases and conditions as the general population but are more likely to have physical and psychological comorbidities. This places them at higher risk for experiencing pain and for having more frequent or severe pain. Self-report is the gold standard in pain assessment; but people with intellectual or developmental disabilities often cannot provide self-reports. Pain assessment in this population is therefore challenging. People with intellectual or developmental disabilities are increasingly being moved from institutions into community-based settings. Therefore, nurses in all settings need to be knowledgeable about alternate pain assessment methods. This article provides an overview of pain and pain assessment in this population, summarizes the relevant clinical research, and describes one facility's approach to pain assessment of its patients.

Key Words pain, pain assessment, pain management, intellectual disability, developmental disability, mental retardation

This article provides an overview of pain in this population, summarizes the relevant clinical research, and describes one facility's approach to pain assessment.

Kathy H. Baldridge is an instructor of nursing at the School of Nursing and Allied Health, Louisiana College, Pineville, LA, and a part-time family NP in a rural health clinic. She is also the former coordinator of the RN Neurology Program at Pinecrest Supports and Services Center in Pineville. Frank Andrasik is distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, TN, and editor-in-chief of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. Contact author, Frank Andrasik: fndrasik@memphis.edu. The authors of this article have no significant ties, financial or otherwise, to any company that might have an interest in the publication of this educational activity.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.