Helpful Ways To Treat Your Elders Painful Health Conditions
By Space Coast Daily // January 3, 2021
The idea of aging can be appalling to most people. According to Mark Twain, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. It may be true, but as we age, our body organs also deteriorate.
Thus, affecting our physical condition. Aging limits every person’s capacity to perform some routine. We may control the mental state but not the physiological aspect. The heart, bones, joints, hair, skin, kidneys, nervous and digestive systems change as people age. These changes make the elderly susceptible to pain.
By definition, pain is described as a subjective and complex feeling that restricts the physical, and social functions of a person. It can be acute and chronic and affects mostly the locomotion.
A huge percentage of the elderly experience locomotor diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. According to the article by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), about 85% of the elderly suffer from these illnesses.
The pain that they experience alters their daily tasks and routine. The hazards of polypharmacy and multiple comorbidities in the elderly pose a challenge to find out the right drug, dosage, and maintenance for therapy.
Similarly, the caregiver’s understanding and patience are also challenged. Those elderly who stay in nursing homes are quite lucky as there is skilled and trained personnel who attend to them.
But some stay at home and are nursed by family members. It is but just to provide proper education to home caregivers to understand the painful health conditions of the elderly and provide appropriate care.
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Analgesics work in various ways. But treatment using medicines may have adverse effects. It is more complicated to use drugs in the elderly than in younger people. It is ultimately necessary to consider the existing health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, or chronic lung disease.
Therefore, assessment and evaluation should not be overlooked to avoid complications especially most of them take approximately 8 or more medicines a day. Due to physiological changes in the body elderly patients have a higher risk of adverse drug events (ADE’s) like kidney damage, nerve injury, or slowing of the gastrointestinal tract.
What are the common types of medicines given to these patients?
■ Paracetamol. The first medicine to relieve short-term pain
■ Aspirin. Often recommended for relief of mild to moderate pain and fever.
■ Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen, ibuprofen, and celecoxib. They treat fever and chronic pain due to inflammation in osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, musculoskeletal conditions, or headache. However, the American Geriatric Society does not always recommend using NSAID due to its proven gastrointestinal side effects like bleeding and ulcers.
■ Opioid Analgesics. Strong opioids include morphine, oxycodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, hydromorphone, and buprenorphine. Tramadol and tapentadol are considered weak opioids. A major requirement in giving opioids is evaluation of risk and side effects as there are more life-threatening factors and effects of this therapy like respiratory depression, sedation, vomiting, nausea, sleep disturbances, and increased falls.
■ Antidepressants. Some antidepressants are given to elderly patients with illnesses associated with morbidity, cognitive impairment, and risk of suicide. Different antidepressants work for different patients. So, the prescriptions depend on the health conditions, symptoms, and other medications being taken.
■ Anti-epileptic medicines. Seizure disorder is also common among the elderly. It is considered the third neurological disorder after stroke and dementia. Valproic acid, Carbamazepine, Topiramate, and Lamotrigine are common antiepileptic medicines that can be given depending on the severity and frequency of the illness.
Choosing the right medicine depends on the duration, location, intensity, and type of pain. Also, consider activities that may either ease or worsen the pain and other medical conditions and medications.
There are non-medicine treatments that have been proven to be effective. Non-pharmacological measures are considered particularly significant in elderly patients as they have a lower risk of adverse reactions compared to pharmacologic treatment.
Whole Body Vibration
Studies revealed that whole-body vibration is a new intervention that can effectively reduce the adverse effects of aging. The European Review of Aging and Physical Activity (EURAPA) made extensive research to prove this claim by extracting data from different reliable resources.
The researchers came up with the conclusion that this exercise improves balance, postural control, and reduces falls in the elderly. This is an indication that vibration machines are not only suitable for the young and health-conscious group but also work effectively for older and aging adults.
Another remarkable result showed that there was a significant increase in upper and lower flexibility among elderly patients. Furthermore, in a study conducted among older women, it concluded that whole-body vibration also increases muscular strength and power.
Acupuncture is one of the most prevalent forms of alternative medicine in Europe and the USA. This treatment uses thin needles to stimulate anatomic areas of the skin or tissues and is manipulated by either the acupuncturist’s hands or by electrical stimulation.
Results of the studies about this method demonstrated its efficacy. It enhanced the physical functions of geriatric patients with acute illness. It restored the bowel function, appetite, quality of sleep, and general well-being of elderly individuals. The studies also argued that acupuncture does not have any adverse effects on patients.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an interactive form of psychotherapy that focuses on both the thinking and behavioral patterns of the patient. Older adults are susceptible to depression and anxiety. Therefore, with CBT physical and social activities are emphasized to change the behavior, have a sense of accomplishment, or increase positive emotions.
This therapy can also help deal with sleep problems that usually stem from emotional angst fueling dysfunctional perceptions. However, this intervention may have some restrictions.
For instance, an elderly patient with physical comorbidities and personality disorders may be less responsive to some drugs and psychotherapy. Experts agreed that limited literature has been explored in this area.
Other treatments may use hot and cold packs to relieve joints and chronic muscle pains. Cold packs can reduce swelling of injuries. Massage can also manage pain. Just be careful with the soft tissue injuries.
Taking care and treating a geriatric patient can be frustrating if you lack the knowledge and proper education. However, it is more excruciating for the elderly individual if the caregiver does not have enough understanding, patience, and skills.
There are pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches in dealing with elderly patients. Interventions vary so as their health conditions. The most important thing to remember is to work on a treatment that has a positive outcome with lesser adverse effects.