According to the American Pain Foundation, 6 out of 10 adults age 65 years and older experience persistent or chronic pain, defined as daily pain present for one year or longer. However, geriatric pain management poses many clinical challenges. The presence of sensory impairments and problems with memory often prevents the elderly from reporting their pain. Also, as many older adults take a lot of medicines, physicians need to consider the adverse effects and drug–drug interactions when prescribing pain medication.
Frail elders face unique health problems
New research published in Medscape highlights the unique problems associated with treating pain in frail elders who are more susceptible to stressors and have difficulty regaining the body’s natural balance after an illness or other traumatic event. The study lists the specific issues that frail adults face as
- Loss of muscle strength
- Decline in balance and mobility
- Reduced physical activity
- Cognitive problems
- Polypharmacy or use of four or more medications
- Lack of endurance
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Weight problems
According to the authors, these factors put frail older adults at risk of both chronic and acute pain, falls, and delirium. Comorbidities are another major concern. For example, an elderly person with osteoarthritis pain in the hips, knees, and feet may also have painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Moreover, pain management in the elderly may not be effective because they lack the ability to communicate with caregivers about their problems.
Evidence-based, compassionate care is available
Getting treatment at a professional multispecialty health care center is one of the best options for older adults. Reliable centers have a dedicated department for geriatric care and provide customized treatment for the elderly to address pain due to medical conditions such as:
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Head trauma
- Hip fracture
- Heart disease
- Skin ulcers
These centers also offer elderly fall prevention programs to reduce the risk of falling among older adults.
In a professional multispecialty health care center, geriatric care specialists, pain management physicians, orthopedists and other experts work together to develop customized treatment plans. They focus on ensuring relief and comfort and helping older patients restore natural physical and mental balance, avoid injury, improve physical functioning, prevent anxiety, and optimize quality of life.