Chronic pain is among the most common conditions suffered by older adults. It is a pain that continues long beyond an expected period. To make matters worse, chronic pain becomes increasingly common as people age.
It’s one of the concerns and questions for many people as they age – Will I have to live with chronic pain when I get older, and every day until I die? Will I be able to do anything about it so that I can live a pain-free existence? Do I have to take medications when I don’t want to? All these questions can cause seniors to worry about their future mobility and ability to enjoy life.
Several conditions can likely put a senior at risk of developing chronic pain. For those seniors already facing this issue, it may be due to the following conditions:
- Cardiovascular Diseases
- Neurologic Diseases
- Type II Diabetes
- Renal Diseases
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Pulmonary Obstructions
- Joint or Skeletal Injuries or Surgeries
The truth is that many seniors are enduring chronic pain in silence. Here are the possible reasons why some seniors tend to ignore and under-report their chronic pain symptoms:
- The assumption is that it is a natural part of aging.
- The fear of submitting themselves to several medical examinations.
- The fear of prescribed medications.
- Seniors whose chronic pain is associated with a particular disease are scared to know about the prognosis of other illnesses or the escalation of it.
Addressing Chronic Pain In The Elderly
Chronic pain must not be dealt with passively. In many cases, a responsible family member may have to step in and help with their pain management. They can help organize multiple treatment and pain management plans.
Addressing the type of chronic pain and discomfort suffered may not be possible immediately. It may take multiple healthcare providers to assess the condition and bring correct guidance to the situation. Here are some guidelines on how to help manage chronic pain in seniors:
Assess the pain level: Let’s start at the very beginning by assessing the level of pain and discomfort the older adult is experiencing. This doesn’t happen without any challenges. Accurately evaluating the level of pain may not always be possible.
This is because some older adults will either downplay their situation due to various fears, or they may be someone who cannot accurately give you an answer because of cognitive decline or other similar conditions.
If they can answer you effectively, the simplest method is asking them to describe their pain using a descriptive scale, for example, ‘describe your pain on a range of one to 10, with ten being the maximum.’
Observe The Suffering Senior For Their Reactions
Please don’t stop asking the person for their evaluation, but always observe them for non-verbal cues and other reactions. They might feel worse than they can describe or are willing to let on.
Managing pain through medicines: Using medicine to treat pain is often very effective, but the physician should always do this. Some people may not believe in prescription medication, and that’s ok. They can be helped by a naturopath or holistic health care professional. The pain management plan they should use is whatever treatment they feel comfortable with.
Nonpharmacologic pain management: As mentioned above, numerous nonpharmacologic strategies for managing chronic pain in seniors. Some seniors may prefer alternative treatment methods, for example, physical therapy, massage therapy, Bowen therapy, hot and cold therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and more.
Suffering from chronic pain is a significant concern for seniors, and for a good reason. No one wants to live a life of pain every day. Therefore, finding the appropriate pain management treatment plan that suits their needs and beliefs is essential if they live a pain-free existence.