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Determining If a Person With Dementia Is in Pain
Be a Careful Observer
- Distorted expressions, such as frowning, grimacing, wrinkling of the brow, or a frightened look
- Eyes tightly closed or blinking rapidly
- Moaning, groaning, grunting, sighing, or breathing noticeably loud
- Chanting, calling out for help, or being verbally abusive
- Physical or verbal aggression
- Excessively rigid or tense posture
- Fidgeting, pacing, or rocking back and forth
- Restricted movement or limping
- Distinct change in appetite: refusing food or eating significantly more than normal
- Changes in sleep and resting habits
- Straying from well-established routines
- Crying, confusion, or irritability
- Changes in level of consciousness
Talk With the Doctor
Treatments for Pain
- Around-the-clock doses of acetaminophen (eg, Tylenol) help with mild to moderate muscle and bone pain, such as that which occurs with arthritis.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS; eg, aspirin and ibuprofen) are also effective, but often cause side effects in older people, such as bleeding ulcers.
- Opioid drugs (eg, Vicodin, Roxicet) are for moderate to severe pain, these drugs can be very effective in some cases.
- Some classes of medications can be given to help prevent the pain from starting and may be prescribed when a person has chronic pain or frequently occurring pain.
The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging http://www.healthinaging.org
The American Geriatrics Society http://www.americangeriatrics.org
American Pain Society http://www.ampainsoc.org
Alzheimer Association of Canada http://www.alzheimer.ca/
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html
The AGS Foundation for Health in Aging website. Available at: http://www.healthinaging.org .
The American Geriatrics Society website. Available at: http://www.americangeriatrics.org .
Kennard C. Assessing pain in dementia. Available at: http://alzheimers.about.com/od/treatmentoptions/a/pain.htm . Accessed July 18, 2008.