News

Elderly folk left without adequate pain relief

RELIEVE THEIR PAIN: Southern Cross University’s Professor Colleen Cartwright.
RELIEVE THEIR PAIN: Southern Cross University’s Professor Colleen Cartwright.

AN ELDERLY man in the early stages of dementia has broken his hip. He's in terrible pain. It's Friday afternoon. The orthopaedic surgeon says he's too frail for surgery and fails to prescribe adequate pain relief.

The man's daughter pleads for a palliative care consultation. She's told she'll have to wait till Monday. Meanwhile, nurses come to roll the man over every few hours. The rolling on his broken hip causes him agony. The third time the nurses come to do it, he begs "no roll, no roll" and the daughter places herself firmly between him and the nurses, to prevent them from getting to him.

This is one of many horror stories that informed Professor Colleen Cartwright, of Southern Cross University, in her research for a presentation to the Australian Association of Gerontology's national conference in Brisbane this week, on the incidence of inadequate pain relief in Australian hospitals and aged care facilities.

Prof Cartwright is the Foundation Professor of Aged Services at SCU and director of the Aged Services Learning and Research Collaboration (ASLaRC) established by SCU and the University of NSW.

"The man with the broken hip died within days of being admitted," Prof Cartwright said.

"Many health professionals are afraid to give adequate pain relief because of a mistaken belief that it's a form of euthanasia. They don't get it that leaving the patient in agony will also lead to death.

"I've been getting a lot of stories about inadequate pain relief in terminal illness, mostly in residential care. The doctor will have prescribed properly, but the nurses may have arbitrarily decided not to administer it as prescribed because the patient might get addicted to it.

"Or the nurses simply might not believe the patient could be in that much pain. Or, dare I say it, the nurses may think the doctor didn't prescribe properly."

Prof Cartwright said the overall situation for older people in residential aged care facilities has improved a little in recent years.

"I know of organisations such as Inspired Care and others that are focused on person-centred care. They're trying hard to work out what each person wants.

"You'll always have some staff who are less committed, but it's hard to blame staff when you see their workload and how poorly they're paid - we've neglected this, and warehoused older people."

The assumption of government that most elderly people will be cared for at home is flawed, Prof Cartwright said.

"Many people of my generation don't want to be a burden on their family.

"The carers are not out there in the community. Average life expectancy now is 80 or more, but if we're encouraging people to stay in the workforce longer and have more funds for their retirement, and we're also encouraging elderly people to stay at home, who's going to care for them?"

Prof Cartwright said she had been shocked to discover from a Queensland study how little training in pain management was offered to health professionals. Only 4% had any training, and of GPs surveyed, only 23%, and not all palliative care workers had specific pain management training.

"They believed they could just pick it up as they went along," she said.

"And then there's the confusion about what euthanasia is - it's a deliberate act with the primary intention of ending the life of the patient.

"That's different from pain relief, which may hasten death by a few hours or days, but that death would be an unintended secondary consequence of an intention to make the patient more comfortable.

"Bottom line, end of story is: there's no excuse for leaving someone in pain. It is a human rights abuse."

Prof Cartwright would love to hear from anyone who has had experience of cases where pain management was an issue. She can be contacted at colleen.cartwright@scu.edu.au.

 To read more about her work with our ageing population, go to http://aslarc.scu.edu.au.


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

NORPA brings My Radio Heart back

Performers in the NORPA co-production My Radio Heart, from left, Randolf Reimann, Phoebe Rose, Mathew Daymond, Claudie Frock, Zac Mifsud (sitting), and Lydian Dunbar. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star

The piece premiered in 2014 in Lismore

Pizza chain goes into voluntary administration

Eagle Boys pizza store

Mackay Eagle Boys will continue to feed the Mackay community

Barn owl down, but office staff give a hoot

Northern Star journalist Sarah Knight wraps little Barney the barn owl in her jacket before handing him to WIRES.

Barney the barn owl saved by local journalists

Latest deals and offers

Gallery donations roll with thanks

THE Lismore Regional Gallery held an evening to celebrate the private donations going towards its redevelopment project.

NORPA brings My Radio Heart back

Performers in the NORPA co-production My Radio Heart, from left, Randolf Reimann, Phoebe Rose, Mathew Daymond, Claudie Frock, Zac Mifsud (sitting), and Lydian Dunbar. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star

The piece premiered in 2014 in Lismore

Pizza chain goes into voluntary administration

Eagle Boys pizza store

Mackay Eagle Boys will continue to feed the Mackay community

Barn owl down, but office staff give a hoot

Northern Star journalist Sarah Knight wraps little Barney the barn owl in her jacket before handing him to WIRES.

Barney the barn owl saved by local journalists

A dramatic portrait of poet Sylvia Plath

ON STAGE: Bette Guy and Elyse Knowles in the latest production by Lismore Theatre Company.

By Lismore Theatre Company

GALLERY: Lismore’s Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever

122 Kate Bushes at The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever, Pritchard Park, North Lismore, July 16 2016.

Check it out: Lismore. Kate Bush. Queer. Crazy. Red. Beautiful.

Pokémon Go makes Ingress into Clarence Valley

Pokemon Go player Dan Optland is pictured in the game w ith a "Pidgey" Pokemon he lured to a Pokestop at the Clarence Valley Conservatorium.

Pokemon Go Pokestops evolved from hard work of unsuspecting friends.

Superheroes of the big screen enjoy sounds of Splendour

CHRIS Hemsworth and his Avengers mates drop by Byron festival.

Dynamic pics from Splendour Day 1

The Strokes perform at Splendour in the Grass 2016. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Check out the latest pictures from Splendour in the Grass.

Bindi Irwin: 18 magic photos to mark her 18th birthday

Bindi Irwin with a python.

Photos: Bindi Irwin from babyhood to 18

Aussie director makes his mark on new Roots mini-series

Malachi Kirby as Kunta Kinte in a scene from the TV series Roots.

BRUCE Beresford behind final episode of remake of iconic series.

The Avalanches pull plug on live broadcast of Splendour set

The Avalanches are an Australian electronic music group.

RADIO listeners won't be able to tune in to the band's show tonight.

Who's got Richie's heart all aflutter?

Richie Strahan stars in season four of The Bachelor.

THE Bachelor has found his dream woman second time around.

You can own this Queensland town for just $1

Yelarbon

Unprecedented auction of town's business centre with no reserve

Work starts on $15M Caloundra apartment building

Turning the first sod at the Aqua View Apartments site in Kings Beach are (from left) husband-and-wife developers Alex Yuan and Stella Sun with construction company Tomkins director Mike Tomkins and Councillor Tim Dwyer.

Developers excited about addition to Kings Beach skyline

Plans revealed for 1500-lot 'master-planned community'

Precinct will be bounded by Boundary St and Shoesmith Rd

Ecco Ripley sales run sparks prime release

MOVING IN: Sekisui House has announced the release of more residential blocks at Ecco Ripley.

Sekisui House is preparing to unveil more land at Ecco Ripley

Massive residential 9-storey high-rise hit by delays

An artist’s impression of the eight-storey-high apartment complex that Bernoth Holdings wants to build in South Toowoomba, next to the City Golf Club.

Developer struggles to get approved high-rise development started