By: Colleen Arnold, MD
Pain is a universal experience. Whether it is the temporary hurt of a broken ankle or something more permanent like arthritis, every single human being suffers it at some point in their lives. There is no such thing as a pain-free life this side of heaven. It can be physical, mental, or spiritual, and despite the best work of our health-care providers, it will always be present to some degree.
It’s hard when someone you love is in pain. He or she can be irritable and short-tempered. What to do?
No judgments, no comments, no suggestions, no taking it personally. Let your person vent his or her anger and frustration. Sometimes simply unloading eases pain. Don’t absorb it; let it bounce off you. Try not to respond to negative with negative.
Not just an offer, but an action. If the trash needs to go to the recycling center or the dishwasher needs unloading, simply do it. I promise no one will be offended, and even if they offer a protest, it will be half-hearted.
People with certain conditions such as fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome look perfectly healthy, so it’s hard to understand how much they are hurting. If they say they are in pain, believe them. They are not being lazy or dumping on you; let go of anger, guilt, and blame.
Yes, you should listen to your loved one, but be sure you share your feelings too. Use “I statements” (“I feel. . .”) and avoid accusatory comments. Being a caregiver is an exhausting role, and you can’t take care of someone else if you aren’t taking care of yourself first. Be sure you get enough sleep, exercise, and time alone.
Educate yourself about the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. Knowledge is power, and you can be an advocate for your loved one.
There is joy to be found even in the midst of pain: flowers blooming, glowing sunsets, kind gestures, a gentle touch. Gently calling them to attention can help widen your loved one’s perspective.
About the author: Colleen Arnold is a family physician, a widow, and a mother of three young adult daughters. She enjoys hanging out with family, writing, reading, and walking. You can read her blog at ColleenArnold.org