Older adults with dementia experience physical pain for the same reasons anyone else does. The difference is that decreasing brain function and abilities can make it difficult for them to clearly let family caregivers and other individuals who care for them know what’s going on. Today, we’re going to discuss pain in advanced dementia and offer some tips on how to recognize and address it.
Dementia Itself Doesn’t Cause Pain
The changes that occur in the brain due to dementia don’t cause physical pain. However, the way the brain is affected as dementia advances does increase the risk of other things that could result in pain. For example, if the part of the brain that’s partially responsible for balance and coordination is affected, there’s a greater risk of falling.
Seniors can face a variety of challenges as they age, many of which can be mitigated with the help of professional in-home caregivers who provide high-quality homecare. San Antonio families trust Home Care Assistance to help their elderly loved ones age in place safely and comfortably.
Pain Can Be Misinterpreted as Behavioral Issues
Because of an inability to clearly verbalize pain, an older adult with advanced dementia may act out. This acting out is sometimes misinterpreted as behavioral problems, which are also common with some forms of advanced dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. What you can do is look for nonverbal signs suggesting your loved one is experiencing pain, including:
• Uncharacteristic behaviors
• Moaning and other unnatural vocal tones
• Gestures that indicate distress
Chronic Conditions May Not Be Sufficiently Managed
Around 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). Even so, chronic pain may not be properly treated or managed in seniors with advanced dementia because they’re unable to communicate what they’re experiencing. Possible solutions include:
• Specialized examinations – Some therapists and doctors are trained to look for nonverbal signs of pain in those with dementia by using gentle touching and similar techniques
• Observations of painful movements – While providing care, look for things such as guarding one part of the body and pain triggered by certain movements, such as getting up from a chair
• Abbey Pain Scale – A family caregiver is asked to rate the severity of facial expressions, behavioral changes, and physical signs of discomfort to develop an indication of the level of pain being experienced
A compassionate home caregiver can be a wonderful source of support for a senior living with dementia. One of the most challenging tasks of helping an elderly relative age in place safely and comfortably is researching agencies that provide senior home care. Turn to Home Care Assistance for reliable, high-quality in-home care for aging adults. We offer 24-hour live-in care for seniors who require extensive assistance, and we also offer respite care for family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties.
Non-Drug Therapies Are Often Recommended for Pain Management
Another challenge with pain in advanced dementia is determining how to treat it. Medication can be risky because drugs used for chronic pain may interact with medication being taken to address dementia-related issues, which is why there’s a tendency to recommend non-drug therapies instead. Options include:
• Massage therapy
• Gentle exercise and stretching
• Hot/cold applications
• Personalized physical therapy programs
Thorough examinations on a regular basis are equally important. This is especially true for seniors with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, that can present other health risks, such as problems with circulation. Regular exams and diagnostic testing can also help with the detection of untreated injuries.
Pain in Advanced Dementia Sometimes Results from Lifestyle Habits
Some pain experienced by those with advanced dementia is related to lifestyle habits. For instance, discomfort may be related to sitting in the same position for too long, a lack of physical activity, or poor posture. These are things that can usually be corrected with appropriate care adjustments.
For dementia care San Antonio families can count on, reach out to Home Care Assistance. Our compassionate caregivers use revolutionary memory care programs to help seniors stave off the progression of dementia, and they can also assist with a wide variety of important everyday tasks, including bathing, grooming, exercise, and cooking. If your loved one needs assistance with the challenges of aging, reach out to one of our knowledgeable, compassionate Care Managers today at (210) 495-6300.