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Manage Pain - Small Acts Offer Big Results
Watching a loved one try to cope with debilitating pain can be agonizing. However, doing small things may make a big difference in the quality of life of a person coping with great pain, whether that person is in his or her own home or in a nursing home.
The focus of palliative care is placed on the "caring” and not the "curing” of an individual facing a life-limiting illness. Unlike hospice, people receiving comfort care do not always have terminal diseases. They may be living with a chronically painful condition.
"Unfortunately, pain management is too often overlooked when medical treatments are needed,” says Cathie Papantonio, coordinator of the Palliative Program at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. "In our programs, we concentrate on easing pain, relieving stress and enhancing the quality of life for patients and residents.”
For instance, asking a person what he or she wants and then actually listening to the answer sounds automatic. However, many times we assume that we know what is best for someone, and act with out consulting him or her.
Adapting activities that a person has always enjoyed doing can take his or her mind off of pain, even for a short time. Just as important is being sensitive when the person wants to remain quiet.
Creating a calm, relaxing environment can aid a person's psychological well-being. This can be simply turning the lights down low or having a lower wattage lamp in the room.
Flowers are welcomed by some people, while others don't care for the smell.
Additionally, specific smells can also bring back good memories for people in distress. Aromatherapy gives those in pain the opportunity to choose certain scents that can be introduced into their rooms.
Music can be an added soothing element when making people comfortable. It can remind them of happy occasions earlier in their lives or comfort them in the moment.
"At Levindale, pain management is so important that we created the PALS* committee,” explains Papantonio. It consists of an interdisciplinary team made up of clinical experts, social workers, clergy, guest services employees and volunteers.
Every committee member receives special training on maximizing the quality of life for patients and residents. The committee supports and coordinates resources that target the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of the patient.
One of the best ways to help someone in pain is also to educate his or her family members. If they know what the side effects of pain treatment are, they can be more sensitive.
Constant communication with residents, patients and their families is the key to helping them enjoy their days and evenings. Empowering them and supporting them are crucial.
Creating space, privacy and a homelike environment relieves the pressure on family members and allows them to spend quality time with their loved ones. It's also important to allow family members to help with direct care when they choose to and are able.
There is no norm when someone is in pain. Concentrating on what he or she desires should be constantly shifting. Monitoring the changes in pain levels is also vital.
Going beyond what is expected is also a way to help a person cope. Papantonio says that Levindale uses complementary therapies, such as massage, Reiki, yoga, music, art and aromatherapy to ease pain.
When a loved one, patient or resident is terminally ill, it is important to know what the person's wishes are and to have them documented.
End-of-life concerns, fears and expectations should be openly and honestly discussed in the context of religious, spiritual, social and cultural customs. There is a greater need for care during the active dying phase.
Easing the physical and emotional pain of loved ones, residents and patients shows love and respect by family members and caregivers.
*PALS stands for:
Patients and residents are the focus of our efforts
Anticipating their needs is most important and is done by
Listening to what they want and by
Serving them and their family members