Empirical research conducted at the Centre for Psychological Research and Social Intervention (CIS-Iscte), recently published in Nursing Open, has unveiled crucial insights into the experiences of older adults receiving formal pain-related social support. The research highlights the significance of effective caregiver communication and its impact on the well-being of long-term care residents living with chronic pain.
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CIS-Iscte researchers Marta Matos and Sónia Bernardes aimed to explore the experiences of older adults residing in long-term care facilities and identify the types of caregiver responses perceived as helpful or unhelpful in adjusting to chronic pain. By conducting interviews with a diverse group of long-term care residents, who had chronic pain, it was possible to understand that residents prefer when care provision is protective of their autonomy (psychological and functional), and when the interactions with their caregivers convey connection and intimacy. The research team adopted a care receiver perspective and gained valuable insights into the enabling practices that may impact the residents' pain management journey.
Marta Matos, the paper’s first author, explained,
“The first theme that emerged from the study was the importance of helpful support during a pain crisis. Participants highlighted the significance of receiving support that reduced the severity of pain during pain flares. This suggests that timely and appropriate assistance during pain episodes is crucial for long-term care residents with chronic pain.”
Sónia Bernardes adds, “Participants also emphasized the need for support that facilitated their engagement in daily activities despite their chronic pain, which suggests that assistance with tasks and activities can significantly improve the quality of life for long-term care residents with chronic pain.”
Considering some limitations of the study, the research team acknowledges that the format (online) of the interviews might have been counterproductive regarding depth and duration. They also highlight the need for further research on gender-related dynamics and the influence of sociocultural context in pain-related care, such as enrolling more men in research studies of this nature and considering other contexts of long-term care facilities.
The implications of this research are far-reaching, as chronic pain affects a significant portion of long-term care residents. “By recognizing the importance of social support and effective care responses, healthcare providers can enhance the quality of life for older adults living with chronic pain.”, the researchers conclude.