App Helps Detect Pain in Dementia

An Australian study has found that an innovative new mobile phone app could help to detect pain, which may otherwise have gone unnoticed, in people living with dementia. The PainChek app, which has been rolled out across 20 care homes in Australia uses the phone’s camera to check for micro-muscle movements in the face which can indicate the presence of pain and generates a score to indicate its severity. One care provider has already reported a fall in the use of antipsychotic medication since the app was introduced, suggesting that the improvements in pain management have also led to a reduction in distressed behaviour.

Although it may be some time before this type of technology is widely available in the UK, the success of the app demonstrates how tools used to detect pain can improve the quality of life for people living with dementia. Older people receiving care are particularly vulnerable to pain due to their level of frailty and the effects of chronic disease or disability so any measure which has the potential to improve pain management can be valuable. Pain profiles are one example of the tools you can use to manage pain more effectively – read on to learn more.

Dementia Care

Pain profiling tools can be of value in the care of anyone prone to pain but they’re particularly valuable in the care of people living with dementia or with communication problems which create difficulties in expressing their discomfort verbally. The use of a pain profile can provide valuable insights into the clues that suggest a person is uncomfortable and the measures that are likely to help them to be pain free.

4 Steps to Managing Pain Effectively with a Pain Profile 

  1. Identify the pain: Make a clear record of the type of pain the person usually experiences including the site, nature and typical frequency. This type of record will raise awareness of the problem and encourage staff to be alert for the signs of pain or discomfort.
  2. Describe the symptoms: Include details of the way in which the person expresses their discomfort when experiencing pain. This could include withdrawal, moaning, rocking or a change in facial expression. If staff are able to spot early signs of pain this means they can take preventative action earlier so share this information across your whole team by including it in the profile.
  3. Monitor medication use: As well as recording the details of medication that has been prescribed, note how effective this is in dealing with different types of pain. Some service users may have a combination of regular analgesia as well as a range of ‘as required’ items so noting how well these work can help you to identify which are most effective and when they should be given.
  4. Note other useful measures: Include details of any other methods of relieving pain which have been found to be helpful. This could include massage, repositioning, distraction or the use of music or aromatherapy oils. As with medication, recording the effectiveness of different approaches can guide their use in future.

For more about the latest developments and innovations in dementia care, check out Care Quality Matters: the best step-by-step advice for excellence in care, including the monthly Dementia: Care and Support supplement.

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