The pain of a heart being broken: pain experience and use of analgesics by caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease
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Abstract Background It has been observed that psychical suffering (e.g. the feeling of losing a significant person) tends to reduce the physical pain tolerance threshold, as well as to increase the subjective sense of painfulness. The purpose of this study was to assess pain sensation among a group of caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and to determine the psychological factors (emotional and relational) that contribute to both pain perception and coping with pain via the use of analgesics. Methods The study comprised 127 caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Questionnaires were used to elicit pain intensity, strength of emotional relationship between caregiver and patient, sense of painfulness of the loss experienced, depression level, and somatic ailments. Results A large majority (87.4 %) of participants reported pain complaints, while 93 % took analgesics without a doctor’s recommendation at least once a week; 8 % took painkillers daily. The strongest predictors of both perceived pain and tendency to use analgesics were sense of loss and painfulness of loss in relation to the patient’s deteriorating condition. Conclusions The pain experienced by caregivers may be connected to social pain resulting from the experience of losing someone they are close to. Caregivers may resort to excessive use of analgesics as a pain-coping strategy.