Pain Evaluation Checklist: 10 Ways to Help Your Parent Describe Pain

by, Melanie Haiken,

When your parent is in pain, it can be difficult to talk about and describe. “It really hurts” usually isn’t enough for the doctor to to figure out what’s happening. It doesn’t help that pain is subjective and some people feel it more intensely or in different ways than others. To help you communicate more clearly with your parent’s doctor — and be a more effective advocate — use this checklist to keep a record of your parent’s pain.
If you ask your parent each of the following questions and keep a careful record of the answers, as well as how they change over time, you’ll be giving the doctor or nurse clearer information for treating the pain successfully.
Where is the pain located? (Have him point to the exact spot if possible.)

  1. Can you describe the pain? Is it a sharp stab? A dull ache? Does it feel more like the cramp of a stomachache or more like the throb of a headache?
  2. How would you rate the intensity of the pain on a scale of 1 (least) to 10 (most)?
  3. What makes the pain feel better?
  4. What makes the pain feel worse?
  5. How quickly or slowly does the pain come on? Is it sudden or gradual?
  6. How long does the pain last? Does it stay until you take medication, or does it go away on its own, even for a short while?
  7. If the pain is intermittent, how often does it occur? (If necessary, help your parent clock it, the way a woman would clock labor pain, and write down the intervals.)
  8. In what ways does the pain interfere with normal daily activities? Can you sleep? Eat? Walk?
  9. Can you describe exactly how well your medication works? How quickly does it relieve the pain? Does it make the pain go away entirely, or just partially?
  10. How long does it last?

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