Recognizing and coping with pain in adults with ID is a challenge

By Laura Findlay, PhD
Buckinghamshire Community Learning Disability Team, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Aylesbury, UK

People with intellectual disabilities (ID) are at risk for unrecognized and/or untreated pain due to health problems. Understanding pain and personal experiences of pain in the ID population have received little research attention.

What did you do in your research?
Information was collected from interviews with 15 adults with ID about their experiences and understanding of pain.

What did you find out?
Participants described pain using negative meanings and strong imagery, with various causes of pain suggested, but said little about how they coped with pain. Participants varied in whether they reported pains to caregivers, some choosing to hide the experience. There seemed a general belief that others can tell when someone is in pain.

What are the take-home messages?
Conversations regarding pain with adults with ID are a real challenge; health-care staff needs to think carefully about the questions they ask. Possessing verbal skills cannot be taken as an indication that pain will be communicated.

To learn more about these findings contact Laura Findlay.

Full Journal Article
Findlay, L., Williams, A.C.d.C. & Scior, K. (2014). Exploring experiences and understandings of pain in adults with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 58, 358–367.