The presence of persistent (aka chronic) pain is often “the elephant in the room”. For those of us who have persistent pain, daily living can be a challenge. Though we may not “look” like there is a problem, there is. For some, our pain is well controlled and for others it isn’t. For all of us, pain dictates how we spend our day as well as how we do things. It is very fatiguing even at the best. These are some thoughts and suggestions I wish to pass on to our family and friends. This is a response to the well-meaning comment: “What can I do?” This simple question can be overwhelming.
Tips That Can Make a Difference:
- Don’t avoid me. Be the friend or loved one you have always been. Please visit. Find out or call first to be sure it is a good time for company.
- Let’s talk together about it. Try not offer advice unless asked. You might start off by asking if I feel like talking about it at that moment or later.
- Pain isolates; cry with me; laugh with me; let me know my feelings and needs are all right. Be patient and caring. Acknowledge my pain. Validate my feelings good and bad; loss, hope, sadness, anger, acceptance.
- Remember persistent pain doesn’t mean the same level of pain is present all the time. Even if I have a good pain plan there are times my pain can elevate and spiral out of control. If you notice non-verbal cues, like a change in my mood, becoming very still or more restless or the inability to tolerate noise or light, encourage me to use the familiar techniques I depend on to lessen my pain; this could include taking recommended medications.
- Don’t be afraid to touch me. Ask first if you have doubts; holding my hand lightly may be okay where squeezing it isn’t.
- Learn the difference between physical dependence and addiction; I may depend on pain medication but may not have a problem with the misuse or abuse if it. These are very different situations.
- If there is something you don’t understand, let me know so I can better explain it. Never be judgmental. Do not be afraid to be honest with me either.
- Help me make a grocery list, if needed. Either offer to go with me or even shop for me.
- Offer to watch my children or pay for a reliable babysitter for a while so I can have a little alone time with my spouse or by myself. They can probably use a break from me as well.
- Cook or bring over a meal on occasion. Preparing something for the freezer for a time when I am having a bad day would be a life saver.
- If you find I have fallen behind with cleaning, gently offer to help—dust, vacuum, wash dishes or clothes.
I know there are others. What would help you the most? Please pass this along to the families and friends of people you know who live with pain (including yourself); maybe we will get the elephant out of the room or at least halfway out the door.