Nursing Home Dementia Patients: Link Between Pain and Disruptive Behavior

A 2013 study conducted by BioMed Central Geriatrics found that there is a strong positive correlation between pain and disruptive behaviors displayed by the elderly suffering from dementia. It explains that such behavior is often expressed through aggression or agitation, which increases these patients’ risk for injuries and hospitalizations. In fact, agitation is a common behavioral symptom which occurs in up to 80 percent of nursing home patients suffering from any type of mental deficiencies, not simply dementia. However, because dementia is characterized by a decreased ability to verbalize pain due to memory impairment, it causes the sufferer’s pain to manifest itself through destructive behavior.

This discovery is significant because it emphasizes the need for nursing homes to address troublesome behavior by dealing with the root of its cause, rather than simply attempting to manage the symptoms. Many nursing home caregivers often attempt to deal with these symptoms by using psychoactive restraints which not only lead to falls and decreased mobility, but also offend the personal dignity of the elderly. Such practices are common because a sedated patient does not need to be checked on for long periods of time, allowing a chronically understaffed nursing home to continue running with their limited staff. Therefore, this unethical practice bolsters understaffing, which is an important cause of elder neglect.

The BMC Geriatrics study also found that 30% of the cost of care associated with dementia is attributed to the cost of controlling disruptive behaviors. In other words, learning how to adequately cope with elderly pain would significantly help to reduce the overall cost of caring for dementia patients. This cost reduction should serve as an incentive for understaffed nursing homes to hire and train more qualified caregivers, ensuring a higher quality of care for their residents.

In addition to uncovering the root of a serious issue, this study highlights the extent to which many nursing homes are ill prepared to aid their residents. Without proper and extensive training of their staff, nursing homes will continue their unethical practices of medicating their disruptive patients in order to calm their agitation or aggression. Using psychoactive restraints to sedate patients into a state of compliance is a gross violation of the elderly’s Patient’s Rights. Their cognitive and communicative deficiencies subject them to a torturous silence which must be broken. It is the nursing home’s responsibility to not only care for the patient’s physical well-being, but to ensure their emotional and mental comfort as well.


The passionate team of attorneys here at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi firmly believes that every nursing home resident should receive individualized care which places the resident’s well-being before their staff’s convenience. Our team is prepared to fight for you or your family member’s rights to comfort and dignity while they reside in a nursing home. If you believe that your loved one has been unnecessarily medicated, let us help rectify the ills committed against them and bring you the peace of mind you deserve. We serve cities all across California, such as Oakland, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Tustin. Contact us today for a free consultation.