Health & Wellness

Assessing Comfort or Pain in an Alzheimer's Patient

While Alzheimer’s disease itself does not cause pain, your loved one may suffer pain from other sources. These sources may include improperly fitting clothes, stomach cramps, constipation, undiscovered sprains or broken bones, arthritis, pressure sores and bruises. Poor hygiene may also lead to pain; for example, sore gums may result from improper oral (teeth/mouth) care.

Assessing pain and comfort becomes more challenging when your loved one is not able use words to tell you what hurts. As your loved one’s ability to speak declines, nonverbal communication becomes more important in conveying signs of pain or discomfort. The following may be signs of discomfort or pain:

  • Sudden worsening of behavior.
  • Moaning or shouting.
  • Increased restlessness.
  • Refusal to do certain routine activities.

These tips may help you in assessing your loved one’s comfort level and managing pain:

  • Pay close attention to your loved one’s facial expressions and body language. For example, if your loved one pulls away from your touch, this may be a sign of pain or discomfort.
  • Use bathing or dressing time to search for sources of pain: bruises, cuts, swelling, redness or other signs of injury.
  • Take all signs of pain seriously, and see a doctor if you are unable to find the source of pain.
  • Your loved one’s doctor may be able to provide a specific pain-management regimen.