Understanding the Role Pain Plays in Advanced Dementia

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Seniors with dementia feel pain just like anyone else does. But as dementia-related conditions like Alzheimer’s and Lewy body dementia become more advanced, issues with communication and language skills may make it difficult for your senior loved one to let you know he or she is experiencing discomfort. Take a moment to learn more about the role pain plays in advanced dementia and what can be done about it. 


Pain Can Affect Behavior

If a person with advanced dementia isn’t able to clearly verbalize pain, he or she may act out in an attempt to let somebody know about the discomfort. Such behaviors can vary but may include: 

  • Irritability or increased confusion 
  • Outbursts of aggression 
  • Crying for no apparent reason 
  • Resistance to care 


Seniors with Advanced Dementia May Forget about Injuries

Older adults with advanced dementia sometimes fall or injure themselves in other ways when they aren’t being watched, even if it’s only for a brief time. The dementia may result in forgetting about the injury, especially if there’s no significant pain initially. If symptoms develop later, your loved one may begin acting out. 

Seniors can face a variety of challenges as they age, many of which can be mitigated with the help of professional in-home caregivers who provide high-quality home care. Reston families trust Assisting Hands Home Care to help their elderly loved ones age in place safely and comfortably.


Age-Related Sources of Pain Can Be More Problematic

Seniors are statistically more susceptible to joint pain, spine issues, and various aches and pains associated with arthritis and other underlying health problems. What advanced dementia does is compound age-related issues of this nature. For instance, your loved one may act out when joint pain is more noticeable. However, the inability to clearly verbalize this type of pain can result in delayed treatment, which could make the problem worse. 

A compassionate home caregiver can be a wonderful source of support for a senior living with dementia. One of the most challenging tasks of helping an elderly relative age in place safely and comfortably is researching agencies that provide home care service. Turn to Assisting Hands Home Care for reliable, high-quality in-home care for aging adults. We offer 24-hour care for seniors who require extensive assistance, and we also offer respite care for family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties.


Pain Assessment Can Be Difficult

The role of pain in advanced dementia also depends on how pain is personally experienced. Because pain is subjective, it can be difficult for your loved one to indicate how discomfort is affecting him or her. For this reason, the degree of pain someone with advanced dementia is experiencing is often assessed when a doctor makes observations during an examination. This type of assessment may involve looking for: 

  • Areas of the body that are avoided (e.g., leaning to one side to avoid pressure on a painful hip) 
  • Grimacing, tightening of the eyes, flinching, or wrinkling of the forehead when certain spots are gently touched 
  • Sighing, moaning, or groaning when asked about possible sources of pain 

Some doctors use references such as the Pain Assessment Checklist for Seniors with Limited Ability to Communicate (PACSLAC) when examining those with advanced dementia. The PACSLAC is a detailed checklist of behaviors commonly seen in individuals experiencing pain. Another assessment tool is the Abbey Pain Scale, which is based on six signs of pain, including behavioral and psychological changes. 


It’s Essential to Focus on Pain Management & Prevention

Once a likely source of pain has been identified, a senior with advanced dementia may benefit from a personalized pain management plan. With medication, the lowest dosage possible is often used to minimize interactions with prescription drugs being taken for other reasons. Gentle forms of exercise could also be recommended. As far as prevention goes, it can be helpful to: 

  • Schedule regular physical and dental exams 
  • Report unusual behaviors to your loved one’s doctor 
  • Do regular comfort checks to see if there’s anything noticeable that may be resulting in discomfort

Aging in place can present a few challenges for seniors living with dementia. However, they can still live independently at home with the help of professional dementia care. Reston families can rely on Assisting Hands Home Care to provide their elderly loved ones with mental and social stimulation, timely medication reminders, assistance with meal prep, and much more. Our caregivers are available around the clock to help your loved one live a happier and healthier life. Call today to speak with a friendly and experienced Care Specialist to formulate a home care plan for your loved one.