Aches and pains are something that a lot of people associated with aging, but it doesn't have to be that way. If you're the caregiver of an elder who is suffering from pain related to arthritis, circulation problems, diabetes, or another condition, it's important to be proactive about pain management.
Why Pain Control Is Important
Pain is the body's way to signal that something is wrong, but sometimes people who are older will dismiss their own pain and suffer in silence, rather than see a doctor. Some people are afraid of finding out that there is something seriously wrong, and some people are afraid that they'll be seen as complaining over nothing.
Uncontrolled pain can not only be a symptom of an underlying, un-diagnosed medical problem that needs treatment, it can lead to anxiety and depression. Other signs that an older person is feeling uncontrolled pain is when they become withdrawn, cease familiar activities, lose weight, have difficulty concentrating, and become irritable.
Pain can become a barrier to having a productive, enjoyable life and rob you of time you might otherwise be enjoying with that person.
Seek A Doctor's Opinion First
In the past, pain control didn't receive as much attention as it does today. Senior citizens often don't realize that there has been a shift in attitude in the medical community toward pain. There are now doctors, called pain management specialists, who treat pain as a condition, independent of its cause.
If you're helping an elderly person with his or her medical care, ask his or her doctor to first determine if the pain is part of a known condition, like osteoarthritis. If it isn't, ask the doctor to try to determine the cause of the pain, so that the underlying condition is treated.
You also need to ask the doctor for a referral to a pain management specialist, so that the pain itself is actively treated.
A Combination Of Medical And Non-Medical Treatments
Depending on the cause of the pain, treatment can include medication, such as muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, sleeping medication, antidepressants, and narcotics, but there are other ways that pain can be controlled that don't require medication. They include:
- warm baths and heating pads, which relax sore muscles and ease the pressure on joints.
- relaxation therapy, including using meditation or music to help the person avoid focusing on the pain.
- massage therapy, which can help keep joints in line, and reduce muscle pain.
- strengthening exercises, to help maintain the use of arthritic joints.
- range-of-motion exercises, to help keep joints limber.
- supplements like Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil or glucosamine, to help lubricate joints and reduce inflammation.
A pain specialist at places like Paramount Parks At Eagle often works together with other types of medical professionals, like physical therapists, to help find the right combination of treatment for each individual.
Chronic pain doesn't have to be a part of old age, and there are plenty of solutions available. By being watchful for symptoms of untreated pain, you are helping to preserve the quality of life for your senior loved one.