Pain can be a tricky thing. It can be hard to verify, because of differences in individual tolerances as well as its subjective nature.
The main way that we diagnose pain is through self-report, and this can be problematic because someone who is in pain may be either unwilling or unable to report it. But chronic pain can result in other health issues as well, so it is important to try to recognize it and treat if possible.
If you are caring for someone who might be experiencing chronic pain, you may need to rely on behavioral clues to determine whether they are in pain so that they can get treatment. Many older people will not report pain, thinking that it is just part and parcel of aging.
Or they may not want to seem like they are complaining unnecessarily; it may be an issue of pride. Finally, they may be unable to clearly communicate that they are in pain due to some other condition. This is where observing their behavior can come in handy.
Here are some signs that they might be in pain:
- Reduced level of activity
- Sighs, gasps, moans, or cries
- Clutching or holding on to furniture or the part that hurts when moving
- Restlessness or inability to be still
- Rubbing or massaging a certain area of the body repeatedly
- Facial expressions (grimacing, squeezing eyes shut, furrowing brow, etc.)
- Sleeping excessively
- Increased heart rate or blood pressure
- Irritability or agitation
If it seems that someone is in pain, it is important to consult a medical professional before beginning treatment. The aging body reacts to pain medications differently than a younger one does. There is a greater likelihood of overdose as well as a greater likelihood of side effects among the elderly due to changes in the body like smaller kidneys and liver, decreased saliva, and changes in stomach acid levels.
Elderly people may therefore need to have a smaller dose or a different type of medicine than a younger person would. This even applies to over-the-counter medications, so please consult a doctor before starting a pain management treatment.
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