Knowing whether a senior close to you is in pain is sometimes more difficult than you would think. For various reasons, residents of Hollywood and elsewhere may simply not want to tell you or a caregiver this info when asked, or at least not tell you everything.
This is sometimes encountered by the team at Accredited Home Care. We’re familiar with some of the reasons why some of our clients aren’t completely truthful when we ask them “How do you feel?” or “What’s your pain level?”
We know they usually aren’t deliberately lying; it’s more often that they don’t know the right words, aren’t sure of what to say, or not sure if they’re able to share the right context to provide a fair answer. So it’s our job to help them say things properly so we can figure out if anyone can provide ways to help and relief for their pain. If we, as caregivers, are told repeatedly that everything is fine — until we believe it – then they may continue to hurt while we’ll assume that things are fine.
Some of the reasons can include:
- They don’t know how to quantify their pain, since it’s often personal and relative
- They’re used to it, especially in chronic situations where they simply work through it in order to function normally – “mind over matter.”
- They don’t want to complain, not bother others, try to count their blessings, and stay positive.
- They don’t want any special attention or make a fuss
- They’re not sure how they’re feeling
- They’re afraid of having to spend money on medication or a doctor visit if they say they aren’t feeling well
- They’re not sure whether you mean your pain level at a particular moment in time, which might be good due to medication cycles, or the average amount of pain throughout the course of a day, which may hurt more.
There are many ways to counter some of these views, and sometimes it’s just a matter of communication and trust. “I know you say that you’re feeling fine right now, but it’s OK to say if you’re not, so please be honest and share how you really feel.”
Another strategy is to show a pain chart and ask what and where they’re feeling. There are a variety of these, and again, it’s all very relative, but they can help people quantify where their pain may lie, even if it’s as simple as “somewhere around the medium face.” Or they compare the pain to other medical conditions – is it more or less pain than stubbing your toe? Delivering a baby? Breaking your arm? Getting a splinter? Eating bad food?
Caregivers, family and loved ones can also learn some of the signs if someone may not be feeling great, such as having a different pallor or skin tone, sweating when it’s not especially warm, not wanting to move, favoring part of the body which might hurt, other changes like sleeping more or sleeping less due to discomfort.
This month is a great opportunity to learn more about the good and the less good of pain. Pain can be good in that alerts you that something isn’t functioning correctly with your body or there is some sort of external trauma taking place. Insect stings are a good example of your body alerting you that a particular animal is dangerous and to stop pursuing it. At the same time, chronic pain can be draining and affect other areas of your life. It can contribute to depression, fatigue, or employment and relationship problems.
September is officially Pain Awareness Month, an annual opportunity for people to learn more about pain, including its causes and how it can be treated.
The American Chronic Pain Association began the event in 2001 and invited a wide variety of non-profits, medical organizations, elected officials, legal professionals, health care specialists, and consumer groups to come together to organize better ways of informing and educating the public about how pain impacts different areas of life and even parts of society.
More than 80 groups joined together into a group called Partners for Understanding Pain. This effort even included coming up with shared messages and vocabulary so people dealing with pain and need help will be able to move in similar directions.
Visitors to the ACPA site can learn about pain resources in their communities, various Pain Awareness Month events to take part in. There is also a ‘toolkit’ available for healthcare professionals to help assess and provide assistance for those with pain, everything from going to the ER to helping those with prescriptions to managing pharmaceuticals or other options. Access to community groups can also be helpful, everything from support groups to charities.
Assistance is also available for people trying to avoid addiction to pain medication or finding help if they already are addicted.