Posted on Mar 23, 2020 in Senior Tips
Chronic pain is pain that lasts for 3 to 6 months or longer. It can be distressing seeing your elderly relative or loved one suffering from chronic pain so what can you do?
Well, although you might feel helpless in supporting your loved one’s suffering, educating yourself on ways to provide emotional and psychological support can make a huge difference. We’re here to help you with that today.
Chronic pain in the elderly is a recurring issue. The United Nations reports that the number of individuals over the age of 60 will triple by the year 2050.
The National Institute of Health states that 50% of older adults who suffer chronic pain live alone, and 75% live in care homes.
While doctors can prescribe and advise medically, your role in supporting your loved one will mainly be emotional and psychological.
According to a study, there are around 10 generic types of chronic pain suffered by older individuals. If you can, gain a deeper understanding of your senior relative’s pain. You’ll be able to get treatment for any acute pain to prevent it from becoming chronic pain.
It’s more difficult for medical professionals to diagnose pain in elderly people. If they have dementia, speech problems, or cognitive impairment, they might not be able to convey the type of pain they are experiencing. They could also be in denial of the pain, or they might not want to worry their loved ones. Watch your senior for any signs of pain so you can work with their doctor to determine the most appropriate treatment plan.
Understanding different causes of pain can help to identify them.
The most common chronic pain complaints include:
Diseases of the soft tissues related to joints are prevalent in elderly people. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and spinal stenosis all cause painful and inflamed joints.
You can support an elderly loved one with arthritis by ensuring they take their medication. Encouraging them to keep their weight to a healthy level will help to minimize joint pain. Ensure that they have suitable shoes to prevent trips and falls.
Exercise is beneficial to people with arthritis as it promotes flexibility and mobility. If your elderly loved one has arthritis, encourage them to walk, take them swimming, and encourage them to do some strength-building exercises. Heat is also great for joint pain. Applying heat packs to sore and inflamed joints will help to ease symptoms.
Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints in the elderly. 65-85% of older adults suffer musculoskeletal pain while 35-70% experience back pain.
Cancer is a significant cause of chronic debilitating pain. Cancer pain is caused by a tumor pressing on nerves. It can cause different types of pain, such as nerve pain, bone pain, soft tissue pain, phantom pain, and referred pain.
You can help to prevent pain from developing into chronic pain by treating it early on. Urge them to talk about their pain. They might be afraid of worrying you and may not want to be truthful about the amount of pain they are in.
Make sure you know what type of pain they are experiencing and its frequency. This way, you can tell the doctor who can then prescribe the most effective pain management medication.
This encompasses chronic neuropathic pain related to the immune system such as herpes, post-herpetic neuralgia, HIV/AIDS.
Diseases related to nerves can cause chronic painful conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, pain after a stroke, headaches, chronic cystitis, and end-stage renal disease. Neuropathic pain is often described as burning, shooting, or aching pain.
People who suffer from constipation, diverticulitis, irritable bowel disease, and inflammatory bowel disease endure chronic pain.
It can be challenging to diagnose the cause of abdominal pain. Still, one thing to remember is that it’s likely to be caused by something more severe in elderly people. So, it’s essential to get medical help quickly. If they have loose stools, they could be suffering from gastroenteritis.
It’s crucial to monitor any changes in any gastro-related conditions. It’s sound practice to make notes of symptoms, timing, and diet so you can inform any medical professionals. The more information you can share, the better.
Heart disease and vascular disease can cause chest pain, numbness, shortness of breath, or coldness. Unfortunately, pain can increase stress and anxiety which can place extra strain on the heart.
You can help to reduce stress and anxiety in someone with heart disease by encouraging them to engage in activities that help them relax. Encourage them to socialize as pain can cause many people to withdraw socially.
Lung-related diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, pleurisy, and pneumonia can create pain in the shoulders, neck, lower back, and chest. Anxiety caused by difficulty breathing can lower someone’s pain threshold.
By helping someone manage their anxiety, you can help them to cope with lung-related pain.
Unfortunately, treatment and assessment of pain becomes more difficult when an elderly person has dementia due to communication issues.
If your loved one has dementia and shows a sudden change in behavior, they might be suffering from pain. It’s important to watch closely for any signs of pain.
If pain is treated early on with painkillers, it can prevent the pain from developing into chronic pain.
If your loved one is in a nursing home, make sure you visit them regularly and observe for signs of pain. Communicate any changes with staff at the nursing home and follow up to ensure action is taken.
Anxiety and depression in seniors can lower someone’s pain threshold.
As older people tend to be more isolated, this can make chronic pain worse.
Press your elderly loved one to open up about any pain or worries. You could even get the help of a psychologist who can teach relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises.
Encouraging a senior with chronic pain to exercise will help them to better manage their symptoms.
If they exercise with others, they can benefit from social interaction at the same time. Exercise improves mood as the body releases chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. These act as natural painkillers.
Exercising might be awkward for a senior with chronic pain.
A physical therapist can devise tailored exercise programs and can help to relieve pain using different therapy techniques.
For joint pain, a therapist might use cold therapy or heat therapy. Some therapies promote relaxation such as massage, mobilization, or manipulation. Electrical stimulation is also used to treat muscle soreness.
Ultimately, supporting a senior loved one with chronic pain involves giving them attention and tender loving care. Make them feel valued and appreciated. Engaging them in activities they enjoy can have an excellent impact on their mood, which can relieve painful symptoms. Keep a watchful eye for any changes in behavior that could indicate pain and keep medical professionals informed.
If you and your loved one are finding things too tough to manage, why not get in touch with us here at Landmark Senior Living? We’ll arrange for a free tour of one of our five active retirement communities so you can ensure chronic pain doesn’t ruin your elderly loved one’s quality of life.