Saturday, February 11, 2012

Under Treating Pain - the Dark Side of Elder Abuse by Wendy Moyer

Recent studies have revealed that between forty percent and eighty percent of senior citizens who reside in nursing homes are needlessly suffering because they are being inadequately treated for pain.

Just because an elderly person may be moaning, restless, grimacing or agitated does not definitely mean that they are feeling pain. One of the problems associated with diagnosing pain, according to the American Geriatric Society (AGS), is that there are no objective biological markers for pain. Therefore it may be difficult to diagnose a senior's pain.

However, under treating pain has been considered to be negligence, neglect, or even elder abuse.

So, how do you know if an elderly person you love is in pain? Although it may be tricky to obtain information, your most accurate source is the elderly person. And one way to find out is by asking the right questions.

For example, if you ask "Are you in pain?" your elderly relative could answer you with a simple "No." So you need to be more specific.

Ask questions such as "How have you been sleeping?"; "Do you feel achy?"'; "Does your knee still bother you?"; "Is your back sore?"

Health care professionals often use assessment tests to determine the intensity of pain. These tests compare a senior person's pain both before and after a particular therapy technique for pain - or specific medication - has been used.

The American Geriatric Society recommends that word, number, and picture scales should be used to identify levels or pain.

A number scale might have the numbers one through ten printed on a piece of paper. The patient will circle the number that indicates the level of pain that they are feeling. The higher the number that they circle the more severe the pain they are feeling.

A Word scale uses words to describe different levels of pain. The senior is asked to choose the words that best describe how she or he feels.

If the senior is cognitively impaired or illiterate then a picture scale may be used. A picture scale may show half a dozen cartoon-like images. They could start with a bright, yellow, smiling face and get progressively darker and sadder looking. The most painful expression may be a dark orange, wearing a frown, and be shedding tears. The patient points to the picture that best describes how he or she feels.

And finally, for patients who suffer from Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, a Nonverbal Visual Analog Scale could be used. The senior citizen is shown a line that ranges from "no pain" to "worse pain." He or she makes a mark that represents how they feel.