Pain and Chronic Illness

Pain and Chronic Illness

Pain is a common feature in many seniors' worlds. Pain may come from cancer, osteoarthritis, or some other chronic illness. Numerous studies have demonstrated that pain is frequently under treated, leading to a substantial reduction in seniors' overall quality of life and their ability to remain functionally interdependent. Depression, social isolation, sleep deprivation, and decreased mobility are all adverse results of chronic pain inadequately treated.

Under treatment of pain appears to be particularly prevalent among nursing home residents. Researchers discovered that 26.3 percent of nursing home resident studied had daily pain not due to cancer. Furthermore, residents with pain were 2.47 times as likely to have severe functional limitations and 1.66 times as likely to show signs of depression. The researchers concluded that greater emphasis needed to be placed on maximizing function and quality of life rather than on extending the duration of life.

Barriers To Adequate Pain Management

Inadequate pain management is widespread, especially among minority groups and ethnic populations. For example, one study of outpatients with cancer revealed that 65 percent of minority patients were under treated for pain, compared to only 50 percent of non minority patients (McCafferey, 1999).

One factor in appropriately treating pain is making an accurate judgement about the level of pain being experienced. Because pain is experience differently by each person, emphasis must be placed on accepting the patients' assessments of their pain. Today, the staff at many hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient centers record the patients; assessments by having them rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain imaginable (or over experienced). Cross-cultural studies indicate that a pain rating of 3 indicated the need to review and revise pain management measures, while a rating of 4 or more markedly interfered with the patients ability to remain active and enjoy life (McCafferey, 1999). The goal is to accept the patent's self-report of appropriate to the diagnosis or patient circumstance. There is an additional challenge when assessing pain levels in clients with dementia, but facial expressions, behavior, and changed activity levels can give clues.

Fear of drug addiction is commonly thought to be a leading cause of undetreatment of pain. This fear may be present in not only heath care staff but also patients and their families. yet, numerous studies have shown that despite substantial increases in the amount of pain medication prescribed, addiction problems are very rare. Undertreatment can also reseult because some seniors ineffectively manage their medication, they may not use the word pain to describe their discomfort to health care workers, or they may mistakenly accept that pain is part of the aging process and not seek treatment.

The above information was provided by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors (SCSA)