Chronic pain is one of the most common problems facing older adults. According to a report from the National Institute of Health (NIH), about “50 percent of older adults who live on their own and 75-85 percent of the elderly in care facilities suffer from chronic pain.” Extensive research has found that chronic pain affects older adults here in the US and around the world, and, in fact, it has been called “one of the most common conditions encountered by healthcare professionals, particularly among older patients.”
For seniors, chronic pain can stem from many different root causes, ranging from natural wear and tear on the body’s muscles, nerves, and joints, to sensations caused by an underlying chronic health condition (such as cancer or diabetes). In other cases, older adults may even suffer from “invisible” pain, with no easily identifiable root cause.
To make matters even more complicated, many seniors may be slow to report their pain, or admit that they need help. As the NIH puts it:
“Frequently, older people don’t report their pain, because they don’t know that it can be treated or they believe it will lead to expensive tests or more medications. And there can be conditions, such as vision or hearing loss or dementia that can limit communication about pain.”
When left untreated, chronic pain can have a serious ripple effect that impacts other aspects of the senior’s life, as well as those around them. Over time, chronic pain may lead to:
- Reduced mobility
- Trouble sleeping
- Activity avoidance
- Depression and anxiety
- Increased rates of falls and accidents
- Social isolation
- Disruptions in family and social relationships
As a family caregiver, it can be trying to see your aging loved one cope with chronic pain. It’s key to remember that getting older does not have to mean suffering in silence. If you’re concerned that an older adult in your care may be dealing with consistent physical pain or discomfort, there are steps you can take to help. Here are four big things to keep in mind:
1.) Know the Warning Signs
Your senior loved one may not immediately report that they are in pain. For many older adults, there is a fear of being seen as a “burden” on younger family members. In other cases, some seniors just see pain as an inevitable byproduct of getting older. This may mean that it will be up to you as a loving family member to watch out for yellow flags, and know when to take action.
A report from the American Geriatric Society urges caregivers to look for physical and behavioral signs of chronic pain, such as:
- Groaning or moaning when sitting or standing
- Consistent grimacing, clenched fists
- Slow or awkward movement
- Lethargy or decreased activity level
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Mood changes
- Trouble holding or grasping things
In addition, as a family caregiver, it may help to keep your loved one’s medical history in mind. Keep notes. Do you know if your loved one has suffered from a slip and fall accident? Have they had major surgery? Have they been diagnosed with a condition such as fibromyalgia or arthritis? Getting a sense of your loved one’s whole health picture can help when it comes to diagnosing and managing their pain.
2.) Help Your Loved One Keep Up With Treatments
Getting your loved one the care and attention they need can be crucial for helping them manage their pain, and maintain their independence. As the NIH explains, “treatment of chronic pain may involve a team of different pain management specialists—including a physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, pharmacist, and others who specialize in pain management.”
As a family caregiver, it may be important to step in and help ensure that your senior loved one is able to make it to doctor’s appointments and physical therapy sessions. You may also need to take on some of the responsibility of helping your loved one remember to take their medications, while also watching out for side effects. Finally, it may fall to you to be a coordinator, helping share information about your loved one’s pain management symptoms and treatment regimen between different medical providers and others in your caregiving network, such as friends, family, or professional in-home companions.
3.) Get Your Senior the Support They Need
When an older adult is dealing with chronic pain, it’s important to get them the support and assistance that can empower them to live a full, complete, and independent life.
For many seniors, home care is a flexible, affordable option for getting the help they need, when they need it, and all in the comfort and safety of their own home. Whether full-time or part-time, an in-home caregiver or companion can help provide seniors with important care to help manage and minimize the effects of chronic pain, including:
- Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Help with movement, such as walking, sitting, or standing
- Help with bathing, grooming, going to the bathroom, and other tasks that may be more difficult when dealing with pain
- Driving services for doctor’s appointments and social events
- Assistance with laundry, cooking, cleaning, and other household chores
- Medication reminders
- Friendly companionship and social connection
4.) Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
At times, it can be all-consuming to take care of a senior loved one with chronic pain. As a family caregiver, it’s easy to worry non-stop, and stress about their condition. You may find yourself devoting all your time and attention to caregiving, and letting important things fall by the wayside.
For the sake of your loved one and yourself, don’t forget to take care of yourself. As a family caregiver, it’s vital to protect your own peace of mind, and find time to relax and unwind. Make time for other things besides caregiving, and give yourself a break. Check in on your own health and wellbeing. The more you take care of yourself, the better equipped you’ll be to help take care of all the people who need you.
An in-home companion can help give you back time for the important things in life while ensuring that your senior loved one’s care needs are met. Whether you use it for a few hours a week or a few hours a day, respite care is a great way to give yourself some much-needed time off to rest, recharge, and take care of yourself, so that you can return to caregiving with more energy and attention to give.
How Companions for Seniors Can Help
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors maintain a higher quality of life by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle in the comfort and safety of home. Our aim is to help seniors live independently, connect them with their community, and nurture meaningful relationships.
To do this, we take care to make things easier for seniors and family caregivers, at every step of the way.
We offer a wide variety of full- and part-time services to make things more convenient. We can provide a free in-home assessment for your loved one, and help develop a unique and personalized care plan specifically suited to their needs. As the senior’s needs develop, so will our plan of care. In most cases we can be up and running in just a few days, sparing you from the laborious application process and paperwork attached to assisted living facilities.
Curious about what sets Companions for Seniors apart? Want to talk over any aspect of home care? We’d love to keep the conversation going and help point you in the right direction. Get in touch or give us a call today to get started.