A recent survey studied the use of opioid use in those with Alzheimer’s disease, and found that 7 percent of those with the disease use opioids to manage severe pain and they have done so for six months or longer. In fact, this number for those individuals with Alzheimer’s is in keeping with the general population. These numbers are applied to only those that are dealing with non-cancer related pain. The major difference that was found here was that while those without dementia take their pain medication in a tablet form, those with Alzheimer’s tend to rely more heavily on transdermal patches.
Other studies point to the fact that about one-third of those who are prescribed opioids develop a long term pattern of taking the medication or an addiction. This can be even more problematic for those with memory issues because of the dangerous nature of this type of a drug. It is possible to overdose on opioids, and memory problems increase the risk of this occurring thanks to improper use of the medication.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is tough all on its own, before you add chronic pain into the equation. Having a skilled caregiver on your side, whether it be in-home care or something else, can ease the burden on you and your family. Be sure that your family’s caregiver knows the dangers of the medications that your parent is on, whether they are opioids or anything else. Knowing how to handle an emergency is much easier when there is a basic knowledge of medications. Make sure that the caregiver has a list of all medications that are being taken on hand.
As you might already know, long term opioid use is associated with many health problems and drastically increases the risk of premature mortality. Many researchers go as far as to say that over the long term, the dangers of using this method for treating non-cancer pain are much worse than the benefits that come along with it. However, pain management is a difficult problem to solve, and it is even more so an issue when combined with the new set of problems that come along with treating Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, there’s not really that much known about the best way to handle both of these medical issues simultaneously. As the field develops, researchers are quick to point out that those that receive opioid doses through a patch face a different set of complications because it can be more difficult to safely cease usage of the drug.
The conclusion that can be drawn from this data is that pain management is a very delicate field of medicine, and when other medical issues are thrown into the mix, it becomes even more difficult to do safely. If you have a loved one suffering from dementia and has an issue with chronic pain, then you cannot be content to take a cookie cutter approach to managing their symptoms. Consult with a medical professional so that you can get expert guidance on what the best way to keep your loved one happy and healthy is.