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Alleviating Pain in Care Homes – Prevalence of Pain in Care Homes

Over 425,000 people live in Care Homes in the UK. Many have significant long-term health problems. Some 65% have dementia, reduced cognitive functioning, and difficulties with communication. Studies estimate that at least one-third of the Care Home population live with, and experience pain.

Care Home residents with cognitive and speech disorders are at a higher risk of living with pain and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) that affect muscles, bones, and joints.

The Care Act 2014 emphasises the importance of measuring and improving the wellbeing of social care users. However, there is no standard method of measuring quality of life in Care Homes, nor are there ways to measure aspects of health, such as pain, anxiety, or depression.

The consensus is that pain is often under-recognised and under-treated in care homes.
However, pain is a subjective experience and cannot be adequately measured which is why mainstream approaches rely on self-reporting. A key challenge to carers managing these experiences is the high proportion of residents who live with dementia.

Thermal Imaging – a Non-invasive Objective Solution
Thermal imaging, or thermography, is a non-invasive, complementary, diagnostic approach that creates a high-definition thermal map of your body (thermogram). Thermograms illustrate temperature patterns consistent with inflammation. Inflammation is a vital part of the immune system’s response to injury and infection.

The appearance and location of thermal patterns helps to identify regions and sources of pain based on levels and differences in temperature, and hence, thermography can be used to diagnose pain objectively – invaluable when the resident is unable to communicate effectively.

Thermography can also detect the source of pain and inflammation surrounding bone fractures, entrapped nerves, muscular trigger points, and arthritis. It enables the early detection of pressure injuries before any visible signs, and provides diagnostic information indispensable in helping to arrive at identifying the sources of pain and an accurate diagnosis.

Early detection of the source of the problem allows practitioners and residents to design a proactive treatment plan with specific interventions and treatments to mitigate the process of inflammation. Thermography is also a highly effective tool for monitoring if a treatment protocol is working.

Bunn et al, in a meta-analysis of studies in 2020 found that thermography had such high diagnostic utility that they propose thermography as a first line MSD detection tool.

By seeing what the human eye cannot see, Thermidas thermal imaging solutions can assist carers and clinicians in locating and creating optimal treatment plans and alleviating pain.

Stephen Taylor, Thermidas UK
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