Many older adults suffer from chronic pain on a daily basis.
Studies show that pain is frequently undertreated in seniors, and that chronic pain can significantly interfere in a senior’s ability to take care of themselves, and to engage in activities they enjoy. Chronic pain often leads to falls, depression, and problems sleeping.
Pain Management Differs for Older Adults Compared to Younger People.
Older bodies may have multiple conditions that affect potential pain treatment options. They often react differently to medications, and sometimes – such as in dementia – there may be communication barriers that interfere with pain assessment or management. Pain management is important to ensure that seniors function fully and live well.
What is Chronic Pain?
Pain is considered chronic when it lasts longer than expected, usually 3-6 months or more. Chronic pain in seniors is often the result of arthritis, or other conditions such as degeneration of spinal discs, joints, compression fractures or other disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Neuropathic (nerve) pain due to diabetes or other conditions is also a common cause of chronic pain in older adults.
Older bodies react differently to medications than when they were young. They are more vulnerable to side effects. Because seniors often take multiple medications, the potential for different medications to interact poorly with each other is a real concern. For these reasons, it is important to utilize non-drug treatments to the extent possible. Non-medicated treatments include physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, warm and cool packs, massage, and movement.
Although non-medicated pain treatments are preferable in many cases, it’s important to treat the senior’s pain adequately, even if that means using medications. Treating and medicating pain appropriately can ensure that the senior is able to function at their best, participate in exercise, physical therapy, and other activities that give their lives meaning. There are many different kinds of medications for pain, and even some that can be bought over the counter can be dangerous for many seniors. Talk with the doctor about all pain and the ways that it limits the senior’s life. The doctor can help determine the safest and most effective course of treatment.
Chronic Pain in Dementia
Pain can be hard to identify in dementia. If the senior has dementia, don’t rely solely on what they say when it comes to pain assessment. Also, look for non-verbal signs of pain, and utilize a pain assessment scale to help identify signs that may otherwise be overlooked. Treating pain appropriately can make a big difference in a senior’s behavior, ability to function, and quality of life.
Elderly Care Support
Treating pain appropriately doesn’t mean that the senior will be completely without pain, but the pain should be tolerable. Seniors often must learn not to overdo activity to prevent pain from growing out of control. Elderly care aides can be a big support to seniors who struggle with chronic pain. Elderly care aides can help take care of mundane tasks, which can free the seniors to participate in activities they find more meaningful. For example, elderly care aides can help with laundry, housework, meal preparation, or shopping so the senior can have the energy and drive to socialize with friends, engage with pets or participate in community events. Elderly care aides can also assist seniors with personal care, transportation, and other things that may be challenging with their chronic pain.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Elderly Care in Sun Lakes, AZ, or anywhere in the East Valley, please contact the caring staff at Legacy Home Care.
Call (480) 777-0070