Older adults often experience a number of medical conditions that cause discomfort. They may have arthritis, constipation, muscle strains, urinary tract infections, or autoimmune disorders that cause discomfort. However, seniors living with advanced dementia are often unable to convey personal concerns that may include experiencing pain. The inability to effectively communicate can result in untreated pain for seniors in the advanced stages of dementia.
Pain Research in People with Dementia
Some theorized the brain damage caused by disease processes that create dementia interferes with the ability to experience pain. However, a group of researchers in Melbourne, Australia, learned otherwise. The scientists used MRI scans to determine the physiological indicators of pain in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and in those with normal cognitive function. The scans demonstrated brain activity that occurs when anyone experiences pain is the same regardless of cognitive health. From their research, the group concluded people with dementia may not complain of pain because they’re often unable to do so.
In addition to being unable to express their pain, seniors with dementia may not understand the reason for their discomfort. Thus, family members or caregivers must be observant to catch possible nonverbal signs that something is wrong. Some signs to consider include:
• Behavioral changes—aggression, combativeness, or withdrawing
• Facial grimacing or wincing
• Guarding a body region
• Rubbing the head or another body region
• Reduced movement in a limb or overall slower movement
• Moaning, cursing, or other verbalization with movement
• Repetitive behavior, words, or sentences
• Unexplained crying
• Restlessness or pacing
• Increased blood pressure and heart rate
• Unusual perspiration
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. Dallas families can 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.
Ask Simple Questions
When noticing something amiss with your older loved one, approach him or her and ask a simple question. However, if the pain is intermittent, your loved one won’t remember the discomfort experienced in the past few minutes or hours. Pose the questions at the moment your loved one seems to be exhibiting symptoms. Ask if a specific body region is hurting. Determine if the pain occurs when your parent moves a particular way.
After determining the location of the discomfort, you then have the ability to remedy the problem. Arthritic complaints might be resolved with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, massage, soothing compresses, ointments, stretching, or gentle exercise. Abdominal complaints might be resolved by increasing dietary fiber, ensuring better hydration, or providing a laxative. Severe or persistent pain may need evaluation by a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause before a treatment plan is devised.
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 elder care. Dallas families trust Home Care Assistance to help their elderly loved ones age in place safely and comfortably.
Repercussions of Untreated Pain in Dementia
When seniors continually exhibit behavioral changes, they may be misdiagnosed as being depressed or difficult. If your parent’s pain isn’t correctly assessed, diagnosed, and treated, he or she may receive a prescription for antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, sleep aids, or antipsychotic medications that don’t solve the problem.
For dementia care Dallas 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. Reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (214) 363-3400 to learn more about our high-quality home care services.