March 20th, 2006

Great River Hospice is participating in a five-year National Cancer Institute grant to study ways to improve cancer pain management in older adults. The project is called Cancer Pain in Elders: Promoting Evidence-based Practices in Hospices. It builds on another study—Translating Research into Practice—that is testing the use of acute pain-management practices in hospitalized older adults.

Most cancer patients are older adults, a population with unique challenges to effective pain management. They include misconceptions about pain, evaluating pain in people with cognitive impairment, increased sensitivity to medication side effects and multiple health problems. Because one goal of hospice care is to ease the dying process by eliminating pain, the study may provide valuable information for helping caregivers, patients and families meet this goal.

“Pain is a significant concern for elders with advanced cancer in all practice settings, including hospices,” said Keela Herr, Ph.D., professor of nursing at the University of Iowa, which is conducting the study. She is one of two principle investigators in the study. “Though pain outcomes are better in hospice than non-hospice settings, there is considerable variation and many patients still die in unresolved pain.”

The study began in January. The findings are expected to be published in 2010.

Great River Hospice, a part of Great River Medical Center, serves patients and families in Des Moines, Henry, Lee and Louisa counties. Offices are located at 1221 S. Gear Ave., West Burlington, and 501 S. White, Suite 24, Mt. Pleasant.