The fact that you are asking the question is a great start.
There are many ways you can offer support to someone who is in constant and chronic pain.
First, understand that chronic pain is not just a symptom.
Chronic pain can be debilitating and life-changing. Until recently, pain was considered an indication of an injury or illness. But, now we know a malfunctioning nervous system can create a vicious cycle of pain on its own.
Chronic pain is real, invisible and unmeasurable.
Your loved one may look healthy in every way but may feel unbearable pain. Even when there’s no apparent reason or medical explanation, the pain is real. It’s not an exaggeration or a figment of his or her imagination. You can validate your loved one’s feelings by learning about chronic pain and pain cycles.
Realize that chronic pain doesn’t just go away.
Many people who suffer from chronic and painful conditions stop talking about them. But, that doesn’t mean the pain has disappeared. They may still experience pain but no longer see the value in expressing their feelings. You may have to ask your loved one for an honest answer about his or her pain level.
Understand your loved one’s emotions.
It’s not uncommon for people dealing with unrelenting pain to feel discouraged, depressed, angry, frustrated or hopeless. Your loved one may want to participate in activities or family events, but may not be able to do so. People who suffer with chronic pain often feel isolated and unimportant. Recognize these emotions and help your family member work through them. Help them participate and socialize as much as possible — even if it means using a computer for a virtual visit or outing.
Make a list of things that your loved one can and cannot do around the house.
Creating a list of household chores your loved one can accomplish during his or her less-pain-filled days allows him or her to feel empowered and in control. Delegating tasks may also help lighten your workload as your family member contributes to the daily tasks of running a home. Use the list as a flexible guideline, so there’s not the added pressure of a hard and fast schedule.
Adjust to the unpredictability of chronic pain. While your loved one may have been able to walk around the block yesterday, he or she may not be able to get out of bed today. Chronic pain ebbs and flows. It presents a unique set of limitations and challenges each day. Enjoy the good days and try to be understanding on the days when chronic pain takes control.
Living and dealing with chronic pain is exhausting. It can make people irritable and negative. Don’t pity your loved one, but ask if he or she has the energy to talk or visit. Talk about family, experiences or even the latest television show. Talk about everyday life. Avoid the subjects of pain or pain relief. Your loved one wants to be valued and share in life as an individual. He or she does not want to be defined by pain.
Encourage your loved one to stay connected with people.
Friends and family care but may not know what to do or say. Reach out to them. You and your loved one can also join an online support group. Sometimes connecting with others who understand and experience similar challenges can be helpful and encouraging.
Recognize and deal with your own frustration.
Many times people who live with someone who experiences chronic pain assume the role of caregivers. They may feel guilty, burdened and stressed when they want to do things their loved one cannot. Talk about the issue together. Chances are he or she feels guilty, too. Choose a few activities that you can enjoy independently. It may be helpful for you to develop relationships with other caregivers who can offer suggestions that can make your life a little easier.
Encourage your loved one to see a pain management specialist on a regular basis.
Pain management specialists understand how debilitating chronic pain can be. They will work with you and your loved one to limit the pain so you both can enjoy and experience life as much as possible. Pain management specialists can be a valuable resource in your quest for relief from chronic pain.