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Digital pain assessment for people living with dementia

New study shows improved well-being among Orchard Care Homes residents using ‘PainChek’

This week (May 13-19) is Dementia Action Week – and tech has a key role to play in meaningful action. For example, a new paper published in Frontiers in Psychiatry links the use of digital pain assessment app PainChek to improved well-being among care home residents living with dementia.

Woman using PainChek app for facial scan of care home resident

Photo courtesy of PainChek

The idea behind the app is give a voice to people who can’t reliably verbalise their pain. Available on smartphones and tablets, it incorporates an AI pain assessment tool to automate the process using a numerical rating scale (NRS). The aim is to provide accurate, consistent pain assessment at the point of care, whether for those who cannot reliably self-report the pain they are in, those who can, or those who ability can vary over time.

PainChek is being uses at part of the Reconnect initiative at Orchard Care Homes, which runs 23 care homes across the north and Midlands. This multi-faceted psychosocial intervention programme has been designed to increase meaningful occupation and engagement, improve pain identification and management, and reduce constipation and distress. The new study reviews the impact of Reconnect on people living with dementia where alternative settings or previous care has been ineffective in relieving distress or reducing risks that they pose to themselves or others. Reconnect programme interventions show significant improvements in reducing residents’ levels of distress and psychotropic use. There was also a 97% reduction in safeguarding events related to observed behaviours (from 36 to just three such events).

Hannah Miller, Head of Dementia at Orchard Care Homes, says: ‘It is well known that failure to recognise and treat pain effectively is a problem amongst people living with dementia. Pain is a trigger of distress, yet often overlooked as a contributing factor, and the person is not only left to suffer unnecessarily in pain, but also to be prescribed psychotropic agents to manage their behaviours.

‘Integration of PainChek in Orchard Care Homes’ electronic care plan has been a real game changer, enabling our care teams to closely monitor and assess the pain experience of individuals in their care using a mobile care device, providing staff with a long-term view of when a resident is likely to experience pain.

‘Orchard strives to incorporate technological advances and put them into practice to ensure we are enabling all people living in our care homes to achieve good outcomes and be afforded equitable care regardless of their cognitive ability or ability to self-report health concerns such as pain. Individuals who are not able to effectively verbally communicate pain who were previously disadvantaged are now on an equal footing with those that can communicate effectively. The PainChek app has been pivotal to our Dementia Promise and improving the overall well-being of many of the residents living in our homes.’

Philip Daffas, CEO of PainChek, adds: ‘Orchard Care Homes has used PainChek for more than three years and its Reconnect quality improvement programme aligns with our mission to provide innovative solutions for pain management in dementia care. These positive clinical outcomes underscore the importance of our collaborative efforts and the contribution of the PainChek technology to improving the quality of life for those living with dementia.’

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