The National Palliative Care Research Center

Curing suffering through palliative care research.


Laura Porter PhD

Associate Professor

Duke University Medical Center

Grant Year
Grant Term
2 years
Grant Type
Pilot & Exploratory Project Support Grant

Project Description
Caregiver-Assisted Pain Coping Skills Training for Dementia

Pain is common and undertreated in patients with mild to moderate dementia, and is associated with disability, psychological distress, and exacerbation of neuropsychiatric symptoms. Non-pharmacological approaches for pain management such as pain coping skills training have been found to be efficacious among older adults without dementia, and have been recommended for patients with dementia but have not been tested in this population. Given the impact of dementia on patients’ family caregivers, their role in pain management, and the progressive nature of the disease, it is important to target pain management efforts to patients and their caregivers together. We have previously developed caregiver-assisted pain coping skills training (CG-PCST) interventions for patients with osteoarthritis and cancer and found they lead to improvements in outcomes for both patients and caregivers. In this study, we propose to develop a CG-PCST protocol for community-dwelling adults with pain and mild-moderate dementia and their family caregivers. The first aim is to develop the protocol incorporating strategies to meet the specific needs of these patients and caregivers. We will use interviews with patient-caregiver dyads and a focus group with health care providers to ensure the protocol is tailored specifically to address the most important pain-related concerns and incorporates pain coping skills that are appropriate and beneficial for these patients and caregivers. The second aim is to examine the feasibility and acceptability of the protocol among 12 patient-caregivers dyads. Results of this study will support the development of a multi-site RCT to test the short- and long-term efficacy of the caregiver-guided pain coping skills training protocol on patient and caregiver outcomes. This program of research has the potential to meaningfully advance the clinical care of patients with dementia and pain, change clinical practice, and enhance the quality of life of older adults with dementia and their family caregivers.


Laura Porter, PhD, is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and the School of Nursing at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. Dr. Porter is a clinical psychologist whose research focuses on developing and evaluating psychosocial interventions to help patients and their family members cope with the symptoms and psychological demands of illness. She has particular expertise in couple-based and caregiver-assisted interventions.