Many seniors experience pain from time to time, and some even experience an amount of pain consistently. As we age, the body experiences changes and often seniors have more health problems than other age groups. This does not, however, mean that pain should be a normal part of life for an elderly individual. The more we know about and talk about a pain that a senior may be experiencing, the better our ability to help.
Types of pain: Pain can be physical or emotional. Physical pain can be chronic , meaning it is persistent and may even grow over time; or acute which happens suddenly such as an injury.
Causes of pain in seniors: Finding out the root cause of pain is essential to treating it. Explore the list and ask if any of these should apply to your elderly loved one.
- Emotional stress or trauma
- Poor overall health (diet, exercise, sleep patterns)
Dealing with pain:
- The first step is to tell someone. A doctor, caregiver, or family member – whoever you are most comfortable with. People can’t guess, so let them know what’s going on. Don’t be ashamed to talk about it – that’s what caregivers are there for!
- Treatment: Bear in mind that medication will alleviate your symptoms, but usually do not cure to root cause of the pain. If recommended treatment involves lifestyle changes, make a list or a chart and place it somewhere obvious so you won’t forget. Tell your caregiver about the changes so someone will ensure they are implemented.
- Removing the cause: If the pain is chronic, finding the cause is essential to long-term recovery. Masking symptoms with drugs will not remove the issue. It is never too late for a lifestyle change!
If you are a caregiver and the senior you care for won’t talk to you about their problems, how will you know if they’re in pain? Some things to look out for (and don’t be afraid to confront them if you are concerned for their health):
- Changes in mood – a sudden frustration, depression, distractedness, or desperation.
- Problems with physical movement – developing a limp or avoiding sitting/lying a certain way to avoid a pain.
- Changes in eating, sleeping, or exercise.
- Restlessness or excessive worrying.
Pain scale: If you are trying to assist a senior in determining what pain they are experiencing, try using the pain scale to bring attention to the severity.