How to Safely Treat Pain Among the Elderly

Posted on Posted in Caregiving

Whether you are reaching your senior years or care for a parent, you know that the aging process often brings symptoms associated with pain. Years of wear and tear can lead to joint pain. A range of chronic conditions can cause pain-related symptoms to worsen with age.

In fact, researchers have voiced their concerns od underreported pain within this population. Many individuals believe that the pain they experience is a ‘normal’ part of aging.

There’s plenty of medications available. Often overprescribed. However, which are safe? This population tends to experience a decrease in muscle mass. An increase in fat mass.  Moreover, reduction in body water.  All these factors can influence drug distribution.

When you are in pain and desperate, you will try anything. However, what’s the best option?

We Need to Properly Assess Pain In the Elderly

At this time, senior patients represent the fastest growing population across the globe. In 2008, there were approximately 506 million individuals 65 years and older. By 2040, this number is expected to climb to 1.3 billion. Of these people, many of them live with untreated pain.

While focusing on geriatric pain, defined as any emotional or sensory pain, linked

to potential or actual tissue damage. Present within those who are 65 years or older.Also, these individuals have been living with pain for more than three months. Moreover, in most cases, results in an impaired ability to complete daily activities.

Although there are plenty of older individuals who have their pain under control — many do not. As stated in one review, researchers found that in one case, 66 percent of geriatric nursing home residents were living with chronic pain. In 34 percent of cases, the pain not detected or treated.

Safe Treatment for Elderly Patients

No two scenarios are identical. What may work for one individual, may not work for another. Once co-morbid conditions become more apparent, such as arthritis and diabetes, then treatment can become a little more complicated. Always follow the advice of your physician. Don’t by shy to get a second opinion if you are unsure.

The first line of defense tends to be painkillers. However, which are the safest?

In more recent years, patients have begun to question the medications they are taking. A classic example of this is the distribution of opioids. A class of drugs that were long believed to be safe for the older population. Unfortunately, drugs such as codeine may actually increase one’s risk of a heart attack, fractures, and hospitalization.

These have often been the preferred choice. Ironically over less powerful medications, like NSAIDs. These are known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, associated with stomach ulcers and an increased risk of heart disease. At the end of the day, no matter what medication a patient takes, adverse effects may follow.

Researchers concluded that although these drugs are still useful, the exact prescription is critical. If in need of opioids. Patients should begin using one of the least potent opioids. With a lower associated fracture risk. A detailed discussion and close monitoring of patients need to accompany these prescriptions.

Depending on the cause of one’s pain, this will determine the best course of action. For those with arthritis, for instance, patients can improve comfort levels by implementing a range of natural remedies. Some examples, include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight causes additional strain on one’s joints.
  • Continue low-impact exercises, such as swimming.
  • Use temperature therapy. Warm water can help loosen joints. Cold therapy can contribute to reducing
  • Take your diet seriously. There are plenty of anti-inflammatory foods readily available. Including spices like turmeric.
  • Try mind-body therapies. Focus on the interaction between one’s mind and body. Including yoga and meditation. Have been shown to produce essential benefits without any adverse effects

The takeaway: Medications most certainly have a place in our healthcare system. Moreover, they do help improve key symptoms and save lives. It is not always the only option. If you find that you are experiencing adverse effects in additional to your original condition, then you may want to reconsider your current treatment plan.

Pain can make you feel helpless. Get a second opinion. Take action to better your health. Reassess your current medication regarding the prescription and dose.