Alzheimer’s disease is a brutal affliction that strips away a person’s humanity. It robs patients of their memories while simultaneously removing their ability to communicate coherently. Often, those afflicted are difficult to treat due to the communication issues. Here’s a guide on recognizing pain in Alzheimer’s disease sufferers.
The realities of dementia
Studies suggest that 35 million people across the world suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Half of those victims hurt a second way. They experience chronic pain due to their malady. It’s a terrifying statistic that reveals that dementia is an even crueller disease than many realize.
To date, the best hope that physicians have had on this topic was that people with dementia might not recognize the pain they felt. Some research indicates that such patients feel less pain than people in full control of their faculties. That’s the good news, but the bad news is that the same studies show that dementia patients are at high risk for pain under-treatment. That’s why it’s imperative for family members of dementia sufferers to learn to recognize the signs of physical discomfort.
Noticing the signs
The Pain and Discomfort Scale (PADS) is a respected program for pain recognition. Its underlying premise is that a person doesn’t need to communicate their pain explicitly. Instead, a person employing PADS can identify suffering through different means.
A dementia patient’s facial expressions will often change when they’re experiencing pain. That signal allows family members or healthcare professionals to administer pain relief. Note that facial expressions aren’t the only identifier in the PADs system. Body movements also display different behavior when someone is in pain.
Learning how to react
The assessment of movement when under duress is difficult to evaluate. To a lesser extent, the same is true of facial expressions. That’s why doctors emphasize that the best way to recognize pain in a dementia sufferer is by studying their healthy behavior. The facial reactions and body movements they make when not in pain are different from the way they’ll subconsciously respond to sudden discomfort.
Use the ordinary motions and expressions as a baseline. When you notice a deviation from this pattern, it’s a fair guess that the patient is suffering. Understand that the treatment isn’t easy even when you diagnose the discomfort accurately. Many sufferers will struggle to take oral medications since it’s an unpleasant action whose purpose they don’t understand.
Also, dementia patients have strong reactions to some medications. Anything with strong side effects can cause more confusion. Any awareness of this will cause the person to resist any attempts at treatment.
Perhaps the best tactic for reducing pain is to target the underlying condition instead. It’s a preventative step that is often easier. Consult with your loved one’s caregiver to discuss options for such preemptive treatments.
Having a loved one with dementia is emotionally devastating. It’s also painful for them. Using the information above, you can help them reduce the physical discomfort of their condition.