Pain Management: How to comfort a loved one with chronic pain

Caring for a person with chronic pain can be emotionally and physically taxing for the caregiver. It is important that friends and family are ready and willing to support the patient with chronic pain. While a home nurse can offer a great deal of support and help for a patient with pain, caring for someone with pain, or living with chronic pain is truly a team effort. Family, friends and loved ones are an important part of the equation. Dealing with chronic pain is not easy for the patient of family of those afflicted, but there are ways to make the process smoother.

Support the Patient

The number one piece of advice given to caregivers of people with chronic pain is to offer support and understanding. While an in-home nurse can offer daily care and help with physical problems, family members and loved ones are the individuals who traditionally deal with the emotional fallout of living with chronic pain. For those suffering with chronic pain, it is important to reach out to family for support and understanding. Discuss the pain, look for signs and symptoms and offer tactics and strategies to better deal with the pain and the emotional fallout of it.

Education and Understanding

While supporting a patient with chronic pain and listening to what they have to say, it is also important for a caregiver to educate themselves on chronic pain and to become an advocate for the patient. Often times chronic pain, specifically pain that is not associated with a visible injury, is overlooked or downplayed by doctors and those around the patient. Caregivers should educate themselves on all forms of pain management, including traditional and non-traditional methods. Gaining a solid understanding of chronic pain and the possible pain management tactics will make it easier for a caregiver to truly help and support the patient in question. When at the doctor’s remember to ask questions and take notes. Taking notes can help the patient and the caregiver absorb the information. A doctors office can be an overwhelming place, and information can be lost upon leaving. Notes help remind the patient of what was spoken about, and what options are available for management.

Speaking with Insurance Providers and Doctors

Those dealing with chronic pain may not be able to deal with their own insurance claims. Chronic pain takes a great deal out of a person, both physically and emotionally, and for some with chronic pain dealing with insurance providers and claims, as well as doctors appointments can be incredible taxing. To help a person dealing with chronic pain offer to deal with insurance claims for them, as well as accompany them to doctors appointments. A caregiver who chooses to deal with insurance claims for a chronic pain suffer must be related to the person in question and have written or spoken permission to deal with the insurance company. Regularly check in with the chronic pain patient to see what needs to be done on the insurance end, including dealing with claims for a home health aide.

Multi Disciplinary Measures Helps those with Back Pain

Back pain affects people of all ages, yet the pain for seniors isn’t usually as easy to relieve.  Whether it’s osteoporosis, arthritis, shrinking padding between backbones or just the normal changes that come with aging, addressing the problem before it becomes debilitating is very important.  Back pain in the elderly usually causes a decrease in function, much more so than in the younger population, so that they’re not able to perform basic tasks of daily living.  Their pain also tends to be more chronic.  Incorporating physical therapy occupational therapy, nursing and exercise physiology to ones routine can produce significant results for the aging population even before the onset of back pain.

Back Pain Management for Seniors

Geriatric patients are more likely to be homebound to begin with.  Often they have home health care for different reasons.  Home health care clinicians should evaluate their elderly patient for any back discomfort during their initial evaluation.  AT Home Care, Virginia’s largest independent home health agency, counsels its elderly patients on exercise and diet that can aid in the recovery of other ailments just by giving them more ambulation and range of motion.  Nutritional supplements such as vitamin D and calcium are recommended at 800 grams and 1200 grams a day respectively.  Obesity can add to the degenerative wear and tear on the spine structure so diet is important from a weight perspective.  There is a linear correlation with bone density and weight showing that those who are too thin are more likely to suffer from Osteoporosis.  But bone density and bone quality are not the same.

Compression Fractures Ignored on 50% of X-Rays Shown to Doctors.

Vertebrae disc compression of more than 80% is identified as a fracture, but In a University of Washington study it was ignored on 50% of the x-rays shown to doctors who were looking at other organs with the spine in the background.  Those who have a one fracture are 4X more likely to have another fracture.  The spine has 24 discs and 77 joints which make it vulnerable for degenerative problems.  Osteoporosis has reached epidemic proportions and has added to health care costs.   Greater awareness of preventative measures will certainly help in the ill effects of the disease.

Recovery from Back Surgery

If a geriatric patient has back surgery, they are more likely to require longer home care services following spinal surgery.  These patients may need a longer recovery due to a slower healing process, impaired cognitive skills, and decreased mobility.  As life expectancy climbs, there is an increasing prevalence of elderly patients who sustain complex fractures to their upper cervical spine.  These fractures can lead to increased morbidity and mortality.  Home health nurses have a duty to evaluate the health of their patient with regard to nutrition and exercise when opening any medical case.  Observing the patient in the home gives the home care giver a good insight into their daily routine and adjustments can be made right away.

Pain Management – Something to talk about

When pain gets bad it can interfere with both one’s physical and mental health.  It can affect one’s sleep and appetite thereby aggravating any other physical issues.

Pain is a signal that something is wrong and needs attention.  It should be addressed at the onset of the first symptoms, when it is most likely to respond to medication or holistic treatment.  The elderly may not voice their concerns about their pain with their homecare nurse or doctor because they  assume that their health-care provider understands how they are feeling and that any hurt is “par for the course”.  Communication is the key to the best pain management.   Never keep pain to yourself.

Learning to Talk About Your Pain

There are many different types of pain, and knowing some words to describe how you are feeling to your doctor or home health care provider are important. It is helpful to write down how you are feeling and how the pain may be changing. Some key words are: sharp, aching, dull, shooting, pounding, burning, deep, constant, on-and-off.  You can, also, help others understand by rating your pain on a scale of 0-10. It is also helpful to note whether your pain increases at certain times of the day or when your body is in specific positions. Continue to keep your home health nurse or doctor informed by writing down any descriptions or changes in pain throughout the day.

Drug Alternatives

The good news is that there are more options to alleviating pain than medication these days.  More homeopathic remedies include relaxation techniques such as meditation, hypnosis and progressive muscle relaxation; warm compresses or massage to relieve stress.  Acupuncture is another remedy in which tiny needles are inserted into the skin at specific points.  According to some experts, acupuncture works by stimulating the body’s pain control system or by blocking the flow of pain. In extreme circumstances, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is used.  A small battery powered box that can be worn with a belt clip sends a mild electrical current along the skin, locking pain sensations.

Consulting with your home care nurse, doctor or hospice organization is recommended before you change your medication or care plan. Remember that it is important to speak up about pain.