People who care for a family member or friend living with long-term (chronic) pain play a vital role in making sure their loved one’s pain is managed correctly. This helps lead to a better quality of life for the person living with pain.
As a carer you have a unique insight and understanding of what it’s like for a person living with pain. This is invaluable as understanding and compassion towards the person is often reported as being one of the things that can help someone manage their condition.
Adapted from Chronic Pain Australia.
Take care of yourself
Being in pain has a big impact on a person’s quality of life. When someone you care for is living with pain, you can see how it can be exhausting and irritating for them. But, you shouldn’t overlook how caring for someone in pain can be physically taxing and emotionally draining for you too. It’s important to take good care of yourself.
Remember you can’t be there for someone else unless you first look after yourself.
If you’re a young carer, you can get additional support from Young Carers Network.
Being there helps
There are plenty of ways to help someone in pain. Support helps the person you’re caring for feel less alone and feel looked after. It can help them feel more able to deal with their symptoms.
10 ways to help someone you care for
Everyone has a unique, individual experience of pain. You probably already know about their pain but asking how they’re going reminds them you care.
- How is your pain today?
- Will your pain affect what you do today?
- What things make it feel worse?
- What things help?
It’s not easy to understand constant pain unless you’ve been there. You know their pain is real but don’t brush off their pain by saying they’ll be fine or it’ll pass. It may be well-meaning but is unlikely to help.
Look at the world from their perspective and appreciate that they’re doing their best to get on with their life in the best way they can.
Sometimes people can define themselves by their pain. As their carer it helps to remind them of the rounded human they are and what makes them special.
Pain symptoms can change day to day so keep checking in. That way you can stay on the same page.
Never underestimate how your role as a carer gives them a sense of a normal life.
If you’ve asked your loved one to go to activities or social engagements but they say no, don’t let that stop you from asking them again. And again. They still want to have fun too.
Have a pain scale from 1 to 10.
Ask the person you care for what their level of pain is:
1 = free of pain and feeling fabulous
5 = having some pain but managing it
10 = having the worst pain ever
This’ll help you understand how they’re feeling and how you can support them.
You spend a lot of time with the one you care for and probably know the signs when they’re in pain. For example, decreased activity, poor concentration, sleep disturbances, mood swings, moaning, hand wringing, irritability, restlessness and grimacing. But, pain can be mentally tiring too. Keep an eye out for any signs of stress or depression.
Every day can be different. Someone with pain might be happy to walk somewhere one day or do physical activity, but another day, may struggle to get out of bed.
Recognise their physical abilities each day. When the person in pain needs to stop what they’re doing to sit down, lie down or go home – go with it without judgement.
Going to medical appointments with the person you’re caring for, not only helps you understand their condition, it gives you chance to find out more about their medication. Being there helps be their back-up to hear all the information given, and it’s emotional support too.
As the carer, it can be helpful to arrange appointments or speak with health professionals, work bosses or colleagues, teachers, family or friends to extend support.
It can be easy to slip into unhealthy ways when feeling severe pain. Encouraging the one/s you love to look after themselves is a really positive thing to do. This might involve:
- planning meals, grocery shopping, or cooking healthier food together,
- going for walks or other physical activities together.
Staying positive can help the person you care for feel more positive and help them build confidence and hope. This doesn’t mean dismissing their feelings or ignoring their experiences but gently encouraging positivity when the time is right.
Remember! You may not always be able to help in pain management directly. Sometimes their pain can take a toll on your health as well.
Refer to factsheet 3 for things you can do to help.
Look after yourself too.
Support is available for you:
Visit or call Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 (8 am-5 pm, Mon-Fri) to find local services and support.
More tips for carers and people with pain can be found here:
Look out for Chronic Pain apps, blogs and podcasts. It can help the person you’re caring for, know they’re not alone.
Pain Australia has an excellent directory at www.painaustralia.org.au/getting-help/pain-directory.
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