A new pain management guide written by specialist nurses has been published to help ensure people with dementia are not left suffering in silence.
The resource has been produced by Dementia UK’s Admiral nurses and offers advice on how to tell when a person with dementia is in pain and how to alleviate it.
“Identifying pain as a concern in the first place is key to developing a good plan of care”
The document noted how contrary to public opinion, people with dementia did experience pain, but it was often “missed” because the condition may have robbed them of the tools to recognise it or communicate it with others.
“This can mean that their pain is not treated properly, which can increase their discomfort and distress, and reduce their quality of life,” said the guide.
“If people are feeling vulnerable or afraid, then they are more likely to experience a more significant reaction to pain,” it stated.
“Dementia can cause people to feel confused and frightened, which can mean that they experience pain in a heightened way,” added the document.
In addition to emotional suffering from depression and social isolation, the guide highlighted how dementia patients were more likely to have other physical health conditions that could cause them pain including gum disease, arthritis and constipation.
Among the signs listed in the guide that a person with dementia may be experiencing pain were shouting, change in mood, sleeping more or less, refusing food, fidgeting and restlessness.
Investigating why the dementia patient is in pain was “doubly important”, said the document, not only to help them to be more comfortable but also to avoid unnecessary prescription of treatments for their agitation.
“Dementia can cause people to feel confused and frightened”
Pain management guide
Sharron Tolman, consultant Admiral nurse at Dementia UK, said there was evidence that people with dementia were more likely to experience untreated pain than those who were not living with the condition.
She added: “There are a number of things you can do at home to help manage pain but identifying it as a concern in the first place is key to developing a good plan of care.
Source: Dementia UK
“Treatments can include warm and cold compresses, relaxation and movement as well as use of medication to maximise comfort,” said Ms Tolman.
She said the charity ran an Admiral nurse dementia helpline, which could be used to ask any questions around pain and dementia.