The following research-based tools are useful to screen for pain and measure pain intensity in older adults who can indicate the presence and/or severity of pain verabally, in writing, or by other means such as finger span, pointing, head movement, or blinking eyes to answer yes or no questions.

Recommendations for Assessing Pain in Cognitively Intact Older Adults - List of recommendations to screen for pain in cognitively intact older adults

Pain Assessment Tools

Numeric Rating Scale (NRS)

Pain intensity rating scale for use with individuals who can point to or state the number that reflects their current pain level.

  • NRS Instructions - Instructions detailing the use of the numeric rating scale (NRS) to assess pain intensity for persons able to self report.
  • Numeric Rating Scale (NRS) Tool - Pain intensity rating scale for use with individuals who can point to or state the number that reflects their current pain level.
Verbal Descriptor Scale (VDS) or PAIN THERMOMETER SCALE

Pain intensity rating scale good for use with any individuals, including those with moderate to severe cognitive impairment.

  • VDS Instructions - Instructions detailing the use of the Pain Thermometer to assess pain intensity for persons able to self report and is the best choice for most older adults.
  • Verbal Descriptor Scale - (VDS) or Pain Thermometer Tool
FACES Pain Scale Revised (FPS-R)

Pain intensity rating scale useful for all older adults, including those with mild to moderate cognitive impairment. Some older adults will find this tool easy to use, and may prefer it over the Numerical Rating Scale. This scale requires either verbal ability or the ability to point to the image on the scale that most closely represents their pain.Forgetful man

Pain Assessment Support Resources

Comprehensive Pain Assessment Form 

Form to assess pain in cognitively intact older adults.

Pain Diary

A daily or weekly pain diary is potentially useful for older adults and the health care team. Pain diaries can enhance a sense of control during a time when many older adults experience a loss of control and can be appropriate in many settings. Pain diaries can be added to the care plan for the appropriate older adult with two-fold purpose: 1) for helping the care team gather information about pain care effectiveness and 2) to help the older adult better understand their pain experience. Care providers may find the information gained is useful to improve overall pain care.

ID Pain: a Neuropathic Pain Screen 

Pain Screening Tool to evaluate presence of neuropathic pain.