Seminar focuses on identifying and managing pain
PETERBOROUGH, Ont.— As baby boomers reach their senior years, the long-term care sector needs to be positioned better than ever to understand the symptoms and treatment of pain, says Barb Bremner.
Bremner, a pharmacist consultant with Medical Pharmacies, Ontario’s largest provider of pharmacy services to long-term care homes, was in Peterborough Oct. 25 as part of its six-part Pain, Comfort and Perception seminar, being delivered to staff members at OMNI Health Care’s 16 long-term care homes.
According to statistics, by 2017 the number of people over 65 will be greater than those under 15.
“We’re going to have a lot of elderly people, so we’re going to have to learn a lot about pain,” says Bremner.
The Oct. 25 segment, entitled Exposing Pain as the Fifth Vital Sign, focused on identifying and controlling pain in residents in long-term care homes.
It was attended by staff members working in several departments at OMNI homes, including life enrichment, housekeeping and nursing staff.
In an interview before the seminar, Bremner explained that one of the major problems faced in long-term care is trying to identify pain symptoms in residents with cognitive impairment. If a resident is non-verbal, she notes, they will not always be able to show conventional indicators of pain.
“Pain is under-treated in people with Alzheimer’s (and) people with dementia, so we have to get people to recognize pain,” says Bremner. “The point I want to make about drugs is that it’s not that difficult to get people pain-controlled.”
“We can get (residents in long-term care) pain-controlled and provide them with a better quality of life.”
As a result, staff members in long-term care homes need to look at other signs from residents who may be experiencing pain, says Bremner. Quite often, she says, there are symptoms to look out for in residents with cognitive impairment.
“Usually there’s a manifestation of pain somehow, whether they’re agitated, they don’t sleep, they don’t eat — there’s some sort of sign that they’re in pain,” she says. “You can start using the mild pain medications and if they seem somewhat better, then we can move up to the stronger ones, until we get them settled.”
In other instances, Bremner says residents with cognitive impairment might be withdrawn and quiet, then suddenly agitated and exhibiting behaviours.
The seminar also focused on identifying barriers surrounding pain control, as well as debunking misconceptions about pain and its treatment.
A common misconception people have, says Bremner, is that older people — especially those with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease — cannot feel pain.
A false impression many have about pain treatment, she says, is that people using pain medications, particularly opiates like morphine, stand a good chance of becoming addicted.
“There’s a lack of understanding, and we’re working on the education,” says Bremner. “We’ve got to get (health-care professionals) to recognize that (residents) are in pain, and that we can control it.”