Understanding Pain Management in the Elderly with Dementia

Understanding Pain Management in the Elderly with Dementia

You see a senior loved one with dementia rocking back and forth, refusing food, and repeating the same words over and over again. While these could be typical dementia-driven behaviors, they could also indicate that the senior is experiencing pain.

The communication disconnect that often happens in a person with dementia may make it difficult or impossible for an older adult to describe what’s hurting. Or it may be that the senior has lost the ability to recognize or remember the feeling of pain. Sometimes, the fear of having to face a hospitalization, to take additional medications, or to be put in a nursing home will prevent an older adult from sharing the pain being experienced. It could even be simply a matter of pride for a senior who is still in a position to effectively communicate, but believes he or she should deal with the pain sensation independently.

Understanding pain management in the elderly who have dementia is important. It’s critical to learn the signs to watch for and seek medical assistance to eliminate any health-related concerns. In addition to those stated earlier, keep an eye out for signs that can include:

  • Whimpering or groaning
  • Frightened, grimacing, or tense facial expressions
  • Crying
  • Yelling
  • Tightened fists
  • Refusing to take part in activities
  • Becoming combative
  • Increasingly confused
  • Being inconsolable
  • Protecting a specific body part
  • Wandering/pacing/restlessness
  • Labored breathing and/or higher than usual heart rate or blood pressure

The older adult may be experiencing pain from a chronic health condition, recovery from a surgical treatment or recent injury, a sickness or infection, or simply just an everyday issue such as constipation, stomachache, headache, etc.

If these or other concerning behaviors are noticed in an older adult you love, contact his or her physician immediately for help in addressing the root cause associated with the issue. There are certain prescription-free ways which may be helpful (with the doctor’s approval and guidance), such as:

  • The use of cold packs or heating pads
  • Massage or gentle exercise
  • Air or gel cushions along with more frequent position changes
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers

Additionally, sometimes soothing activities can be helpful in distracting the senior from any discomfort, such as listening to favorite music or a book read aloud, visiting with a friend or member of the family, or pet therapy. Even just changing the senior’s environment by moving outside to the porch or garden could be all it takes to restore contentment.

The dementia care specialists at Amy’s Helping Hands are experienced in detecting changes in condition in the adults we serve as well as in keeping seniors with dementia comfortable, safe, and content. Email or call us at 519.915.4370 for more information about our home health care in Windsor, Ontario and to set up an in-home consultation today.