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22 Aug 2018

Recognising pain in those living with Dementia

- Written by Chris

Pain is a natural human sensation. We experience different kinds of pain that produce different kinds of actions and reactions. Mental pain over loss is often known as grief, which can often make people experience heightened emotions, especially those that are negative, whereas a physical pain from say a broken bone, would cause a different reaction. But in people living with dementia, pain can be a more complex issue.

Someone with dementia can sometimes be unable to identify that they are in pain and can find it even more difficult to tell anyone they are in pain, hurting, tired or even unwell. For example, they could have taken a nasty fall or trip earlier in the day but not recognized the sensation as pain, or completely forgotten about it and are unknowingly making the situation worse. As mentioned above, another major barrier when it comes to dementia can be communication, especially in the later stages, so it could just be really difficult to communicate what pain this person is feeling and where – making it more difficult to treat.

Whether the pain is physical or emotional, someone with dementia may not be able to tell you what it is they are experiencing, which can be one of the reasons why aggression and irritability is a symptom often associated with this condition. But how can you recognise pain or potential emotional issues in someone with dementia if you work in an environment where you have a duty of care over people living with dementia, such as a care home?

– Signs of anger/ frustration: underlying emotional issue
– Very small appetite or stopped eating: dental problems or appetite.
– Very protective over being touched in specific places: There could be a problem in that area.
– Tearful when moving: Joint pain or finger/toenail over-growth.
– Temperature: Migraines or a potential flu/virus

Above are just a few quick observations that you could probably make from careful observation, so if you notice any of these we would recommend investigating further and keeping an eye out for any more emerging symptoms.

If you are all about making bathrooms accessible for everyone and reducing the risk of injury, then a dementia-friendly bathroom needs to be a consideration. With cool touch showers and heating options, colour contrasting key areas and level access showering, the risk of injury can be greatly reduced. Learn more here.

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