Pain Management for the Elderly

Pain ManagementWe all want the best quality of life possible.  I can’t imagine anything that could interfere with Elder Law of East Tennessee clients’ quality of life more than unaddressed pain. Think carefully about the older adults in your life.  Maybe you’ve heard them talk about their pain or you’ve observed the signs even when they don’t admit to it.

There are different kinds of physical pain.  Localized physical pain is the kind that a person can literally put their finger on, a pain in a specific place on the body.  Generalized pain is diffuse and sometimes difficult to describe.  It is like background noise that is always there.  Of course pain can be intermittent, as in pain that only hurts when you move a certain way.  Regardless, it is natural to try to avoid pain.  We want it to go away.  When pain is intractable or intense, it can immobilize us both physically and mentally.  On the emotional side, it can make us a bear to live with.  We don’t like anybody and we sure don’t like ourselves when we hurt.

When working with older adults it is important to be mindful that pain may lead to reduced physical activity, lack of interest in personal grooming, poor appetite, disrupted sleep patterns, and an ill mood.  Left untreated, the door is open for depression. From time to time, ask your older loved one if they hurt anywhere.  Look for the furrowed brow or the facial grimace.  Notice if they seem to be favoring one extremity over another.  Be alert to any significant changes in their daily routines.  Those older adults with dementia may not be able to adequately communicate it if they are experiencing pain, so caregiver attentiveness to any nonverbal clue is essential.

There are a lot of changes associated with aging that cannot be alleviated.  However, most pain is treatable.  A trip to the physician is a must to be sure the appropriate treatment is prescribed and monitored closely.  If your loved one is in a residential or long-term care facility, discuss pain issues with the nursing staff.  Medication side effects and interactions can be addressed with the older adult’s doctor.   Other treatment modalities such as physical therapy may also need consideration.

Whatever it takes, don’t let pain go unaddressed.