Older Adults_Bars-Geriatric Pain

FAST FACTS: Positioning

Positioning: Assisting your family member to stay in a comfortable position.  


Benefits of Positioning:

  • Helps with pain management
  • Decreases risk of complications sure as bedsores
  • Helps maintain range of motion

Guidelines for Positioning and Stretching:

  • Use pillows to support your family member
  • When your family member is laying on their side, make sure their ear is flat on the pillow and not turned under. When your family member is laying on their side, make sure their ear is flat on their pillow
  • A full body pillow can be used to position your family member on their side.

  • Gently bend and straighten arms and legs while helping your family member turn – don’t force joints or muscles beyond a place of comfort). 
  • Use your family member’s reactions as a guide for what is comfortable.

  • If your family member is able to sit up, suggest they pretend to “write” the alphabet in the air using their feet or arms to support stretching and range of motion.
  • They can alternate arms or feet writing six letters at a time
  • Example:  Right Foot- A, B, C, D, E, FLeft Foot-G, H, I, J, K, L

What Else Should You Do:

  • Consider using a Pain Diary to note important information on a regular basis (i.e. document your pain level prior to repositioning and after)
  • Consider using this and/or other non-drug treatments and document the impact on your pain in your Pain Diary


Adapted from: 1. Fouladbakhsh, J.M., et al., Nondrug therapies for pain management among rural older adults. Pain Manag Nurs, 2011. 12(2): p. 70-81. 2. The Nursing Home Pain Management Algorithm Clinical Trial, R01 NR009100,  7/1/05 – 4/30/10; Mary Ersek (PI) Used with permission of Mary Ersek and HPNA (2009). 

Revised 3/2020

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