Improving the understanding of how pain affects and changes the behaviour of people living with dementia must form part of the education available to healthcare professionals and family members, according to an expert in the field.
Speaking on World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21), which this year focuses on the ‘power of knowledge’ surrounding dementia and how it affects behaviour and memory, Philip Daffas, CEO of medtech company PainChek, said pain tops the list of physical reasons for behavioural changes in people living with dementia, but it is often poorly recognised and undertreated because of cognitive and communication challenges.
“This leads to behavioural and psychological issues, unnecessary prescribing of antipsychotics, and decreased quality of life. Effective assessment and management of pain is crucial to better support high-quality care,” he said.
“With the global population of people living with dementia set to triple by 2050, everyone, especially the social care workforce, urgently needs support and information about the signs and impact of pain. This also includes how to identify and manage it, to enhance quality of life for people living with dementia and improve the understanding of their carers and loved ones.”
Daffas said more needs to be done to educate the thousands of people touched by Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia:
“Pain causes significant distress and discomfort for everyone, and for people living with dementia, untreated pain is a significant problem that affects their quality of life and behaviour as they are very often unable to communicate their pain. It is a daily challenge for carers and healthcare professionals to assess pain in non-communicative individuals,” he explained.
“Knowledge is power when it comes to pain assessment; and the use of technology to generate and collect meaningful data holds the key to addressing the shortfalls in pain assessment, and helps stakeholders to better understand the individual needs of each person living with dementia.”
Daffas believes ensuring those living with dementia and potentially in pain are effectively assessed is critical.
This has been the main driver of PainChek’s latest research, published in its whitepaper: ‘Pain & dementia: common challenges for care managers’.
“For this, we investigated the complex relationship between pain and dementia, examined how pain affects the behaviour of people living with dementia, and the main issues with assessing pain and how these can be overcome,” Daffas said.