Some people believe that people with dementia don’t feel pain, but this isn’t true. It can, however, be hard to tell if they are in pain, meaning that it is not treated properly. This can causediscomfort and distress.
Investigating why the person with dementia is in pain will not only help them be more comfortable but also avoid medication being prescribed unnecessarily for symptoms like restlessness or agitation that could be relieved by treating their pain.
Possible causes of pain include:
People with dementia, especially those who are older, often have other health conditions as well. It is important to keep up with regular health checks and help the person take any prescribed medication correctly to try to keep them as well as possible.
Gum disease and other mouth problems can be extremely painful. People with dementia may find it hard to maintain good oral health, but with support, they can brush their teeth daily, use a mouthwash and visit the dentist regularly.Read our information on mouth care for more advice.
Arthritis becomes more common as people get older, and can cause pain in the hands and feet, limbs, neck, spine, and sometimes torso.If you notice swelling, redness, or stiffness in the joints, speak to the person’s GP or a pharmacist for advice.
Constipation can cause pain and discomfort, and is more likely if the person has a limited diet and/or is becoming less mobile.
Try to encourage them to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and ensure they are drinking enough fluid – our information on eating and drinking may be useful. If constipation is occurring frequently, speak to their GP or a pharmacist.
Lack of movement can contribute to pain, so if the person spends long periods in bed or a chair, encourage them to get up regularly if possible and support them to take a walk into the kitchen for a drink, or just around the room.
Being poorly positioned can also cause pain, so check that the person’s chair is supportive, and use cushions to help them sit comfortably. You can request a free Needs Assessment to identify any equipment or home adaptations that may improve their comfort and mobility.
The following strategies may also help relieve pain in a person with dementia.
Heat or cold can help with localised pain. Heat (such as a hot water bottle in a cover) is best for easing aches and stiffness. Cold (such as an ice pack) is better for treating inflammation like sprains and bruises.
Physiotherapy or massage can be good for soreness, stiffness and general aches and pains, but it’s important to explain what is going to happen and stop if the person seems to be in distress or discomfort.
Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises or mindfulness can help – you can find out more in our video on calming exercises.
If you have any questions or concerns relating to dementia, call our free Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm) or email email@example.com.