Saturday, August 1, 2020

Grrr... Pain management in Alzheimer's and Dementia

The past two weeks have been extremely challenging. I've had excruciating back pain that kept me under the house, I couldn't focus on anything, it was very hard to concentrate as every movement I took, would take a lot of effort. I had to take a break from writing here. This situation got me thinking about a lot about different things. One of them was, I can't even imagine what people with Alzheimer's or Dementia go thru when faced with severe pain and not being able to communicate that. At work, we are always on the lookout for UTI's (Urinary tract infection), we haven't really paid any attention to pain.

We always think that when their behaviors start changing, when a person affected with Alzheimer's or Dementia starts getting upset, being challenging, aggressive, and just not being their "Normal selves", Yes, there is such a thing, that is a topic for another blurb. Anyway, I started thinking how do we determine if they are in pain?  like I said in the last paragraph by paying attention to their behavior patterns, how they move, if they are guarded in their movements, and of course, if their normal easy-going personality has changed drastically, and suddenly they are grouchy, irritable, their facial expressions also change they are not quite themselves. Sometimes when they are mumbling to themselves they actually say that it hurts. I can't imagine not being able to verbalize that I was and still are in pain (managed). My heart goes out to my patients. Pain can be the cause of a major meltdown, and we wouldn't even know why?  and will probably be misdiagnosed, because the patient can't communicate properly. That is where we come in, the family members, the nursing team, the activities coordinators, we have to advocate for them and figure out what has caused this change, pay attention!

The biggest culprits for pain are arthritis and fibromyalgia, a simple lab test will determine if a UTI or a systematic infection is to blame for the pain. A physical exam can help the physician figure out if an internal organ is enlarged or if something is swollen if they find the source of the pain, proper medication can be given. Be persistent in encouraging the physician to try different pain medications for your loved one, until the right one is found.

Just because someone can't communicate properly, does not mean everything is okay. We have to work together to find the root of the problem. Staying informed by checking the websites below is a good way to find valuable information, keeping you aware of options and alternatives. We can't cure Alzheimer's or Dementia, but we can be aware of the changes in behaviors and we can alleviate their pain.

Check out these websites:

American Chronic Pain Association, www.theacpa.org

American Pain Foundation, www.painfoundation.org

We are on this bumpy road together, you are not alone!
Be Prepared, Be Informed, Be Empowered.
I send you beams of virtual good vibes.