Helping a Loved One Talk About Pain
There are many reasons your loved one might be uncomfortable talking about their experiences of pain. Sometimes, there's a medical reason for it. Other times, it might be a cultural phenomenon that's blocking effective communication. There are also instances when a lack of accurate knowledge can keep us from discussing symptoms. Individual situations vary, but one thing's for sure: effective treatment depends on identifying what's wrong.
Doctors, pain treatment professionals, and specialists are equipped with many diagnostic tools beyond the medical testing equipment they use. They're trained in effective ways of talking to people, especially those involved in providing geriatric care (we know the likelihood of pain increases with age). Here are some of the key points of those communication methods.
It's important to identify any conditions that might make it difficult to communicate; common examples are dementia and depression. In these cases, a simple conversation may not be enough. It might be necessary to use special tools, such as visual pain charts, or to have extended discussions about the subject.
Cultural or Personal Viewpoints
Some people grew up in a culture that didn't value the communication of personal troubles (my late grandfather was stoic until almost the very end - as a result, his cancer wasn't diagnosed until it was past the point of treatment). Others simply feel that they don't want to be a burden to others. While it's important to respect these personality traits and ethical decisions, it's also essential to communicate honestly enough to allow the possibility of treatment, especially when there is the opportunity to improve everyone's quality of life.
Lack of Research
It's a good idea to do a little reading about pain treatment options. There are many available, due to the varieties of pain and the constant research on the subject (this blog is a good place to start!). It's a good idea to see an expert about your treatment options, even if you're not sure that it's time to move forward with medicines or therapies. Pain specialists spend most of time split between treating patients and researching advancements in their field. They also usually have a large network of associated therapists and technicians they can refer; that means that they're likely to have recommendations for options that fit in any lifestyle, insurance plan, or budget.
The first step to solving a problem with pain is communication; it starts with an open discussion. Whether you're a sufferer of chronic pain, a loved one, or a care provider, take care to acknowledge any personal attitudes or physical disabilities barring the patient from communicating. It's also important to know as much as possible about treatment, and contact a professional if necessary.