Pain is both a friend and enemy. It warns us that something is wrong with the body that warrants immediate attention. Pain is like an alarm system that makes you leap into action to repair the body. It can also suck the life out of you. No wonder John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost, described pain as the “perfect misery, the worst of evils.”
Pain is an uncomfortable sensation that becomes unbearable when severe. It can lead to health problems when experienced long term. When the body or a part of the body is hurting for three to six months or longer, it is called chronic pain.
Chronic pain is not good for the health. It makes the body weak to fight diseases and infections. The body undergoes constant stress, so blood pressure and heart rate are always increased. Sleep and appetite are also badly affected. Because of the constant discomfort, the person in pain is also irritable and can’t focus. Their family, social, and work life suffer, resulting in poorer quality of life.
Some 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and if you are a caregiver for someone who suffers from chronic pain, your efforts to help them cope with their discomforts is one of the most effective ways to show patients you care. Here are some things you can do:
Help patients take their pain medications on time - Taking medications according to their exact schedule can help control aches and discomfort. Remind patients of the time and readily provide a glass of water if medications are oral.
Offer meals and snacks while pain meds are in full effect - A hearty, tasty meal won’t appeal to a person battling pain. When they’re feeling better, patients show eagerness to eat. When possible, give your patient healthy foods and drinks while their medications are working, or about one hour after taking them for most types of oral drugs. Or, just ask the patient if they are feeling better, and then serve their meals and snacks.
Report when a patient complains of inadequate pain control - Encourage a patient to tell you if the pain doesn’t seem to go away or comes and goes very often. The physician needs to reexamine the patient and possibly change the drug dosage or give another prescription.
Watch out for nonverbal cues - Patients endure pain for many reasons. Their culture might dictate that pain is a burden to bear or that speaking up is a sign of weakness. Subtle signs of discomfort are grimacing, protecting the painful part, tearfulness, and quietness.
Make your patient comfortable - Ensure their clothing does not cause more soreness. For example, if they have joint pains in their shoulders and hips, provide shirts that open in front and pants that are soft, loose, and easy to put on and take off. Help them sleep in their most comfortable position and prop or protect the painful area with pillows, rolled towels, and blankets whenever needed.
Provide basic care - When you contribute to a patient's health, you help fight the disease causing their discomfort, so continue caring for them by helping with the right nutrition, adequate hydration, and sleep.
Be gentle - Sudden and reckless movement can often worsen pain. While caring for patients, be extra careful when moving the achy part.
Be patient and understanding - Being in a very uncomfortable situation for a long time can cause patients with chronic pain to be cranky and easily angered. Your patience and thoughtful consideration can lessen their stress.
Assist them with relaxation techniques - You can help patients do deep breathing exercises or ask them to try to relax and think calming thoughts. You may provide a healthy distraction such as introducing a hobby to shift their attention away from their complaint.
Chronic pain is a condition that can seriously affect a patient’s quality of life. Caregivers are in the position to make a patient’s situation a lot better by looking after their interests with sincerity and compassion. If you have a patient with long-term discomfort, keep the above tips in mind!
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