Long-term care homes and frail older adults with dementia have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only have long-term care residents experienced unusually high rates of COVID-19 infection and death but have also been faced with social isolation as family access to long-term care facilities has been restricted due to measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This social isolation has tragic consequences for the quality of life of long-term care residents many of whom suffer from dementia.
During this crisis it is important to remember that while infection control is of central importance, it should not be the sole main preoccupation of long-term care staff and regulators. The problems that are caused by social isolation (e.g., loneliness, depressed mood, boredom) should also be addressed. Moreover, pain care should be a priority. Assessing and managing pain is always important but becomes even more critical during the era of COVID-19. For starters, pain (e.g., headache, body aches, abdominal pain) is one of the symptoms of COVID-19 and, like other symptoms, needs to be monitored systematically and managed. It is important to remember that people with moderate to severe dementia may not be able to express their pain verbally let alone fluctuations in the pain experience. Regular administration of the PACSLAC-II and other validated tools is important for pain monitoring. Second, the social isolation and stress that is experienced in long-term care facilities, as staff are trying to manage COVID-19, may lead to reduced opportunity for older adults with persistent pain to cope with the pain by engaging in pleasant activities including socialization.
It is important to remember that pain is not strictly a physical experience but has psychological components. Pain can affect one’s mood and psychological well being. Engagement in pleasant and meaningful activities can help address the psychological components of pain. Pain should be evaluated and managed now more than ever.
How You Can Help? Would you like to share your thoughts on our See Pain More Clearly initiative and the use of social media to mobilize knowledge about pain in dementia?
We are looking for dementia patients and their families to participate in our study to evaluate the effectiveness of the #SeePainMoreClearly social media initiative to mobilize knowledge about pain in dementia.