Chronic or excessive pain can lead to depression, fatigue, outbursts or aggressive behavior and takes a toll on a person’s quality of life. That’s why out of control pain should not be a part of aging, healing or dying.
Timothy Corbin, M.D. is a hospitalist who specializes in hospice and palliative care. He says fear of often prevents clients from taking the right medications to ease their pain.
“Sometimes pain relief medications have scary names, which makes family members or patients want to avoid them,” explained Dr. Corbin. But the fear is needless, he commented. Management of pain should be part of in home care services to seniors, whether provided by a hospice company, home health agency or physician who makes house calls.
Dr. Corbin explained that pain is the most common symptom of illness, and that unrelieved pain interferes with healing and diminishes quality of life. Sadly, he said that many dying patients continue to suffer from unrelieved pain during their last months of life. He also pointed out a 2007 Meta-Analysis which found pain present in 64% of patients with advanced cancer. Additionally, he sited a JAMA study which said that 25% of long term care patients who complain of pain receive no treatment.
The good news is that most pain during the terminal phase of life can be controlled relatively easily. Dr. Corbin cited prescribing Morphine on a 24 hour schedule as one of the basic techniques of pain control in a palliative setting.
Other non-pharmaceutical options are increasingly important to manage pain as part of in home care services for seniors. Options might include light massage, music therapy, aromatherapy, bringing in a service animal and using cooling packs to soothe areas of the body.
A study in the National Institutes of health reported that therapies once considered “alternative” such as acupuncture, mindfulness meditation, yoga and relaxation have become accepted forms of symptom management with clinical trials demonstrating efficacy for pain and physical function.
Physical activity has benefits including less pain, better sleep, better circulation with adds to cognitive function. It’s believed that physical activity is beneficial for many chronic illnesses that may cause pain including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancer.
Pain management can be part of around-the-clock homecare or visit care and can help a client perform activities of daily living. Pain management also helps with fall prevention and may soothe behaviors or outbursts of a client receiving dementia care.
Any treatment, whether including medications or more homeopathic means, should be discussed with the client’s doctor. But someone who is in pain should speak up and get help.