Is Chronic Pain Part of Normal Aging? We Say No

September is Pain Awareness Month

Wincing I watch my 75-year old uncle walk around his kitchen, slowly and cautiously. The image of the man I see is not the same as the one who danced freely in that same kitchen just a few years ago, sharing animated football stories and his days as CEO of several steel companies. The revered head of our family is slowly handing the reigns to younger generations eager to continue his stories while he watches, and grimaces, from his chair.

Right now there over 100 million people living with some form of pain. The American Chronic Pain Association has declared September as Pain Awareness Month in hopes of raising awareness so those suffering can understand and find ways to cope with pain. For seniors though the issue becomes difficult because like my uncle, many believe pain is a normal part of aging.

In a funded study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) more than half (53%) of older adults surveyed reported having bothersome pain and it may go underreported as some elderly patients incorrectly believe that pain is a normal process of aging. He’s not alone in his settling for a life with chronic pain that over the years has claimed his humor, zest for life, and boisterous storytelling. What’s happened instead is a retreat into a slow depression of sorts and a quick mood altering state from anger to frustration as he manages the pain on his own.

Shedding light on the chronic pain epidemic is what the American Chronic Pain Association is working hard to do. For the past 38 years they’ve been educating communities about pain, spreading the word on social media, and initiating stories about pain awareness so that others can learn to live beyond chronic pain.

Pain is a constant conversation that we have with clients at Lifesprk because so many seniors face pain of some sort from arthritis, cancer, chronic illness, headaches, back issues, and the list continues. But we’ve discovered that sometimes the pain’s root cause goes deeper – they are pained by the idea that the medical diagnosis causing their pain is taking something away from them – their love of painting, going on walks, golfing, taking care of grandchildren, working on home improvement projects, whatever it might be – and their ability to live healthy, independent lives is at stake.  The real issue though is no one is addressing how to help them get that purposeful living back.

Moving Beyond Pain

As Kaye and Pat discovered, pain was a distant memory once their purpose and passions were rediscovered. Both Lifesprk clients pushed aside their dreams of painting again because pain from arthritis was too severe. Their Life Care Managers (registered nurses) used a whole person approach to help them start to live beyond the pain and find new ways to alleviate symptoms – they both began enjoying life in ways they didn’t believe were possible anymore. Whether it’s exercise, diet, medication adherence, or innovations in pain management – there are opportunities that exist to support seniors in their quest to live life and understand pain – what causes it and how they can live beyond it.

 

Here are a few tips from Lifesprk Life Care Managers on what seniors and those caring for them should know about chronic pain:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how to manage pain – starting the conversation doesn’t mean you’re weak or that it’s normal aging. Work together to find solutions.
  • Share with your doctor or healthcare professional your life goals – what is important to you (painting, walking, attending an upcoming wedding) so you can create a plan that focuses on your purpose and passion, not just managing pain. Studies show that’s where the real success comes.
  • Understand the issue that is causing the pain, be specific with your doctor or nurse so they can help you control it.
  • Explore alternative ways to manage pain and engage in your favorites activities, so like Kaye and Pat you can re-discover the extraordinary impact purpose and passion can have on your life.

If you are concerned that you are giving up treasured activities or living with someone who is? Call us for a free discovery consultation to discover ways to move beyond the pain and live a ‘sparked life.’ And in support of pain awareness month, join ACPA’s request to wear your shirts inside out every Friday during September to raise public awareness of issues in the area of pain and pain management. #acpainsideout