Senior Pain Management | June 7, 2017
Pain is a common complaint among the elderly – both in those with and those without dementia. It is not surprising that assessing and managing pain in patients with dementia can be difficult. The main symptoms of dementia are difficulty learning new things (like reading a pain chart), disorientation, mood & behavior changes (which can also be caused by chronic pain), and confusion over times, events, and places. None of these signs or symptoms make assessing and managing pain any easier.
Many studies indicate that although dementia patients experience severe or chronic pain, they regularly receive fewer analgesics than healthy senior adults. This can primarily be attributed to the fact that while a healthy senior can verbalize pain and discomfort, dementia patients, especially those in the late stages, cannot. Pain reporting is dependent on memory and verbal capacity; dementia patients generally have difficulty with both and cannot report when they are experiencing pain. Moreover, if they can report their pain and discomfort, they may not be able to fully understand pain scales presented by doctors so the self-report may be inaccurate.
Pain may be more prevalent in dementia patients with 45% to 80% experiencing daily pain as opposed to community-dwelling seniors who experience pain at a rate of 35% to 48%.
An additional factor making pain difficult to identify in the elderly in general is that the symptoms may not be the same as in a younger person. For seniors with dementia, it is also not uncommon for the effects of pain to be erroneously identified as symptoms of dementia. Pain may increase aggression and depression and cause cognitive problems like lack of focus. Unfortunately, if left untreated, pain can cause mental and functional decline and reduce mobility. Unidentified pain can also be an indication of a condition or infection that needs immediate treatment, so there is a risk the dementia sufferer can experience complications from untreated illnesses.
Dementia patients can experience all types of pain ranging from:
No matter what the source of the pain is, however, there are some general cues the person may give that can help family and caregivers identify that the person is experiencing pain.
Our caregivers, those special people we refer to as Comfort Keepers®, can help families of seniors with dementia by notifying them when some of these pain indicators are present. Our Comfort Keepers are specially trained to interact with dementia patients and report physical or behavioral changes. Some of the changes our Comfort Keepers look for as indicators of pain include the following:
Our Comfort Keepers are trained to look for these and other changes in the seniors under their care and to report these changes to their supervisor and the family as soon as they are identified. As with other pain sufferers, dementia patients may benefit from a healthy diet and exercise.
Our Comfort Keepers can help seniors to manage their pain by assisting with daily tasks, helping with meal preparation, reminding them to take medications their doctor has prescribed, and keeping them physically active by taking them on walks or helping with range of motion exercises. Interacting with the senior with dementia and addressing his or her daily needs can not only provide relief for the senior but also peace of mind and reduced stress for the family.
Comfort Keepers®’ trained caregivers help provide senior clients with the highest quality of life possible to keep them happy and healthy at home. Our Interactive Caregiving™ provides a system of care that addresses safety, nutrition, mind, body, and activities of daily living (ADLs).
For additional information on Comfort Keepers of Canada® at Toronto or any other Comfort Keepers of Canada® location please visit our home page or call us at 416-663-2930.