Pain is one of the most common issues affecting seniors. Studies show that 50 percent of older adults who live alone and 75 – 85 percent of the elderly in care facilities suffer from chronic pain. However, geriatric specialists in Brooklyn healthcare centers point out that treating pain in older adults presents unique problems, the most important being assessing and diagnosing their pain. If not evaluated and treated, pain in older people can lead to other health issues such as depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, reduced functionality and independence, and decreased quality of life.
The main hurdles to pain assessment in the elderly are:
- Many older people think that pain is a part of aging and do not report pain or request treatment.
- Many older people feel that reporting pain could lead to additional testing, more medication prescriptions, and increased medical costs
- Pain presents in an unusual manner in older patients, often as delirium, depression, irritability, insomnia, or agitation and may not be recognized.
- Pain assessment is difficult in patients who problems with hearing, vision, or speech.
Effective pain management improves health-related quality of life in older patients. To ensure this, doctors need to be aware about the specific problems facing older adults and skilled in evaluating and treating pain using suitable pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions. For instance, in established geriatric care centers such as those found in Brooklyn, NY, physicians use special pain assessment techniques to identify pain in patients.
Chronic pain management in such professional health care centers would involve a team of different pain management specialists such as physicians, orthopedists, chiropractors, neurologists, rehabilitation specialists, nurse practitioners, and others who specialize in pain management. Such team care is crucial to help patients manage their symptoms and relieve their physical and emotional distress.
Treatment begins with diagnosing the pain. Common causes of pain in elders include musculoskeletal disorders, osteoarthritis, and cancer. Moreover, the co-existence of multiple medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis in older patients makes pain management even more challenging.
Once the root cause of the pain is identified, the pain management doctors develop a customized that includes interventional and non-pharmacologic strategies. Interventional therapies used include injections, nerve blocks, spinal cord stimulation, and non – steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Non-pharmacologic measures include physical therapy and slip and falls prevention programs. Physical therapy can help seniors maintain their independence when they are managing a chronic illness or need to improve their general health and mobility. Physical therapy programs in a Brooklyn geriatric center are designed to reduce pain, restore and enhance functionality, and increase mobility for better strength and balance. An important element of these programs is helping the elderly self-manage their pain.
This integrative approach to pain management is the key to improving health-related quality of life in the elderly.