Managing Chronic Pain in the Elderly

Managing Chronic Pain in the Elderly

Older adults are often affected by chronic pain. This can cause them to need help from family and friends to perform daily activities such as walking and bathing. As a caregiver, you play an important role in providing physical care and emotional support for your loved one(s). Below are tips for recognizing signs of pain, speaking with physicians, and reducing pain or discomfort.

How to Tell if Your Loved One is in Pain
As your loved one's caregiver, you are in the position to recognize signs and symptoms of pain. Below are a few tips to help you do so:
  • Trust what he/she says - If older adults thinks no one believes they are having pain, they may stop reporting their pain accurately or at all
  • Know what is normal behavior - Keep close watch for changes in appetite and sleep as well as increased wandering
  • Pay attention to body language - Older adults may not want to report their pain or may be unable to express it, so it is important you pay attention to body language such as facial expressions, wrinkling their forehead, closing their eyes tightly, rapid blinking, tears, or clenched fists
  • Listen for words other than "pain" - Different words such as "sore" or "ache" are often used to describe pain
  • Listen for sounds - Moaning, groaning, or sighing may be a sign the person is uncomfortable or in pain
  • Watch for body movements that could be signs of pain, including twitching, rocking, or a stiff upper or lower body that is rigid and moved slowly
  • Note mental changes - Pain can cause stressful emotions such as crying, confusion, or annoyance

Reducing Your Loved One's Pain
Here are a few things you can do at home to help ease the person's pain and discomfort:
  • Show you recognize the person is in pain and that you care
  • Speak slowly and quietly
  • Help the person change positions to make him/her more comfortable
  • Give the person an comforting touch or soothing massage to help ease the pain
  • Start a friendly conversation
  • Quietly play your loved one's favorite music

Speaking with a Physician

As the caregiver, it is imperative for you to recognize and report any changes to  a physician. Follow these tips to ensure a positive and effective conversation:
  • Be calm and clear
  • Know about your loved one's pain - Location of pain, what the pain feels like, how long the pain lasts, when the pain occurs, actions that cause pain, mental/behavioral changes such as depression or anger
  • Report what medications the person is taking and any side effects the medications may be causing
  • Follow the physician's suggestions and directions carefully
  • Contact the physician immediately if your loved one is still in pain so treatment can be adjusted
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