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Some thoughts about dementia and chronic pain

Nearly 5 million people in the USA are affected by dementia; if you are reading this you probably know of at least one person who has or is affected by this condition.  The signs of dementia are varied,and can include problems with memory( loss of orientation to person,place, and time) and difficulty with expression (not being able to find the right words to say things, forgetting "the right word', etc.) Eventually this disorder can can cause a person to forget how to care for themselves, and they can no longer care for themselves.

In this post, I am going to concentrate on the loss of ability to express...because that is where the difficulty comes in when a person with dementia suffers from chronic pain.  It is not uncommon for older persons to have multiple health issues; arthritis is one very common example.  When dementia is added to the list of comorbidities, things become much more complicated.  The ability to say "I have pain in my lower back" or "My left ankle hurts" is slowly lost. Yet that person may be be in agonizing pain...

The challenge for caregivers is to be on the alert for changes in behavior that may signal a health problem in dementia patients.  It is difficult to determine the specific problem because the patient cannot directly communicate it to their care providers.  It is important for families caring for these folks, and also any health care providers involved, to be aware and on the lookout for anything abnormal.

This short video from "YouTube" illustrates the difficulty with communication when it comes to a dementia patient.  It has nothing to do with chronic pain, but it does illustrate that there is clearly a problem...

Alzheimers Association
Institute for Dementia Research


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