November 19, 2009
by Lisa Gualtieri, Ph.D., Adjunct Clinical Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Having had a grandfather who had dementia, I was struck by Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times article, “Treating Dementia, but Overlooking Its Physical Toll” about the impact of the lack of understanding families have about the physical toll of dementia. The article referred to a NEJM study that found that lack of understanding of dementia colored the decisions made by families and, further, “that pain control was often inadequate. One in four subjects were clearly suffering from pain, but that number may understate the problem, because the patients were unable to talk about their pain.”
It is years ago now, but I don’t remember anyone ever wondering, or asking his doctor, if my grandfather was in pain. I came across a Web site about understanding pain and dementia (http://www.painanddementia.ualberta.ca ) developed to help family members to address the problem of undiagnosed and under-treated pain in the elderly. While it is too late for my grandfather, it is wonderful this issue is being specifically addressed by this and other resources.