As adults, we’ve grown a thick skin. When times are tough, so are we. But, that mentality has some serious drawbacks. As we age, that pride can become a barrier to good health. Instead of talking to people about what we’re experiencing and seeking help, we learn to live with the pain.
If aging parents are complaining about pain & stiffness, it could be arthritis. Arthritis is one of the most common diseases in this country and millions of adults and half of all age 65 and older are troubled by this disease. Arthritis can attack joints in just about any part of the body. Some forms of arthritis cause changes you can see and feel including swelling, warmth, and redness in your joints. In some the pain and swelling last only a short time but are very bad. Other types cause less troublesome symptoms, but slowly damage your joints. If your parent is complaining of pain it is a good idea to have them checked out by their primary care physician and hopefully some of the pain can be managed.
According to the National Institute of Health:
There are natural changes that occur with aging that affect pain—sleep patterns change, muscles and joints gradually become more rigid, and energy decreases. Frequently, older people don’t report their pain, because they don’t know that it can be treated or they believe it will lead to expensive tests or more medications. And there can be conditions, such as vision or hearing loss or dementia that can limit communication about pain.
To help overcome these barriers, treatment of chronic pain may involve a team of different pain management specialists—including a physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, pharmacist, and others who specialize in pain management.
The Institute of Medicine reported that there are about 116 million Americans living with chronic pain. But not all is lost. Seniors working with their healthcare provider can learn to manage their condition and live a full life in spite of pain, no matter what their age.
Conditions that can cause chronic pain can be managed, such as:
- Arthritis, joint pain
- Back pain
- Peripheral neuropathy, often associated with diabetes
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Central pain syndrome, often associated with stroke
- Repetitive strain injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Cancer pain
- Depression-associated pain
- Pelvic pain
What we can do to help
Since we know what to look for, we can encourage seniors to talk honestly about how they feel so that the doctor can help make a proper diagnosis. With the right communication, seniors can improve their lives through the help of their doctor.
With a doctors help, directions must be followed, especially prescriptions. Taking prescription drugs irregularly or stopping them altogether can increase the side effects. We can help keep seniors on a regular schedule and make sure prescriptions are taken appropriately.
Beyond doctors, physical and social activities are a necessity. Part of the pleasure of staying home is being able to visit the places you love and see the people you love, but sometimes, extra help is needed. Assistive devices like walkers help seniors maintain their activities with less strain and pain. We can make sure these devices are used despite reluctance.
Pain is a reality for many seniors, but the negative effects of pain aren’t guaranteed. Proper communication with a doctor and a disciplined approach to following their orders will help minimize the suffering from pain. With a little help, seniors can minimize chronic pain while staying active and social.