When it comes to interacting with the elderly, and especially those suffering from forms of dementia, it is important to realize the extent to which chronic pain may be impacting their lives. Grumpier attitudes and newly aggressive behaviors should not be taken as personal insults but should instead be looked at with compassion as these worsening tendencies may be signs that someone is suffering through pain. Some people believe pain is something you do not complain about and just try to live through. Some people suffering from dementia may have difficulty communicating that they are living with pain. Either way it may be up to a person’s loved ones and those around an individual to detect that they may have a problem with pain.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 50 percent of older adults who live on their own and about 80 percent of the elderly in care facilities suffer from chronic pain. (NIH Medline Plus, “Seniors and Chronic Pain”, Fall 2011)

Some causes of pain may treatable. It is important to look out for signs that someone may be suffering from pain. Extra grimacing, unwillingness to do certain tasks, or emotional outbursts at certain times of the day may be signs that someone is going through pain. It is especially important when dealing with those who are exhibiting signs of dementia to look for non-verbal cues that they may be suffering from forms of pain that they are unable to verbally communicate.

If you observe that someone is in pain try to discuss your observations with their medical professionals. If the individual had been previously unwilling or unable to discuss their pain with a medical professional, the pain may have a specific, curable cause or there may be ways to manage the pain. With proper treatment previously suffering individuals may regain a higher quality of life.

Please meet with an elder law attorney in your area to make sure you and your loved ones have a plan and are taking advantage of the resources available to help older individuals achieve the highest quality of life possible.