5 Tips for Caring for Patients with Chronic Pain
May 22 2019
Gentle Encouragement can Help Chronic Pain Patients Live Life to Their Fullest
Chronic pain is life altering. Often, it can be debilitating and it can impact how you see yourself and how you think others view you. It can keep you from doing the things you once enjoyed. This can cause a sense of loss, even hopelessness, in the person who suffers from chronic pain. But as a caretaker, you have the ability to help your patients who suffer from chronic pain learn to properly manage their pain as well as help them through any emotional struggle they may be going through caused by their chronic pain.
Encourage your patients to speak up about the pain they are experiencing. Often, a doctor or nurse may not realize the patient is suffering from a certain pain unless the patient tells the doctor or nurse, as many patients will put on a brave face. Many patients will not talk about any new or increased pain they are suffering from for a few reasons. One might be that they are experiencing a “new normal” in which this pain is just something they have to put up with. Others may feel that all they do is talk about their pain and don’t want to burden others with how they actually feel. While others may feel that by admitting to feeling pain means that they are weak and therefore, must struggle through it in order to be strong. It is important to remind your patient that admitting to new or increased pain is not weak and that you can’t help them with their pain management if they don’t tell you how they are really feeling.
It is also important to encourage your patients to still do what they are able to. While they may not be able to do some things that they used to, remind them that they are still capable of doing things, even if it is something as simple as brushing their own hair. Celebrate victories with them to reinforce this encouragement. A positive attitude can be infectious!
And of course, nothing is more important than encouraging chronic pain patients to manage their pain by following their treatment plan, whether that is eating healthy, taking medications and/or exercising. While it can be painful for chronic pain sufferers to move, exercise should be encouraged if it is part of the treatment plan.
Use a Gentle Touch
You may feel this goes without saying, but those who don’t suffer chronic pain can sometimes forget just how painful a light touch can be. Be cognizant of the areas where your patient feels pain and use a very gentle touch when examining those areas. If you happen to cause any unexpected pain, just apologize.
Because chronic pain sufferers may have days that are worse than others, their mood can change from one day to the next. One day your patient may be in a good mood and the next day they may be irritable and moody. Just be aware of this fact and do not be rude back to them if they get angry with you. Express empathy instead.
It may also take chronic pain sufferers longer to do simple tasks or they may need to do one task at a time. This could include being asked a question while accomplishing a personal hygiene task. Be patient with how long it takes them to do things and only give them one task at a time. If you show any agitation with how long it takes your chronic pain patients to accomplish things, it will only serve to upset them.
Be an Advocate
Since you see your patient more often than the doctor does and have a more personal connection to them, be sure to advocate for your chronic pain patients with their doctor. This is another reason why it is so important to encourage your patients to speak up about their pain. Once you have new information from them that may change their pain management treatment, be sure to speak with the doctor and advocate on your patient’s behalf.
While it is important to keep a positive attitude around your chronic pain patients, there are a few things you don’t want to say. This includes phrases like, “It will get better” or “It could be worse.” For some chronic pain patients, their pain may never improve or dissipate and saying otherwise gives false hope. Because all problems are relative, saying, “It could be worse” may have the opposite effect on your patient. Your patient may feel that they are at their worst. Instead, display a positive attitude by encouraging patients to still do what they can. If your patient is still having none of it, just be kind and gentle. There may be days where even the slightest amount of encouragement just makes them angry because they feel so bad.
Make sure that you don’t limit your chronic pain patient’s independence. It is important for them to feel like they can still do things on their own if they desire to. If you see them struggling to accomplish tasks, ask if they would like some help. Respect their answer. If they get mad that you asked, just brush it off. Few things are worse than feeling helpless or being seen by others as helpless.
Suffering from chronic pain can be exhausting, infuriating and depressing. However with some patience, a gentle touch and some encouragement, you can care for your patients in a way that offers better treatment and allows them to live life to their fullest.