by Dr. Vicki Rackner
Conversations about pain medication–especially opioids– elicit strong emotions.
Here are 7 conversation starters if you think your loved one should take more pain medication.
Observe out loud Say, “You look like you’re in pain. The doctor says you can take medication every three hours, and you haven’t taken any all day.” Then just listen. You don’t have to agree with their points; your job is simply to understand.
Say, “Hang on a minute. I’d like to write these down.”
Ask about the past Ask, “When you were a kid, how did your mom respond to your pain?” Or, “As a child, did anyone you know have a bad reaction to pain medication?” A traumatic childhood experience can shape an adult’s response to pain.
Remove judgment and shame If your loved one expresses shame or judgment about people who have pain or people who take pain medication, say, “No one would would judge a person who needs eyeglasses or insulin; pain medication is a legitimate treatment option for a legitimate medical condition.” Plan to repeat this message many times.
Involve the doctor Say, “You have some valid medical concerns. Let’s take them to the expert–your doctor.” The doctor has the credibility to respond to objections like, “I’m afraid I’ll become addicted.” or “The pill is too big to swallow.” or “I don’t like the fuzzy thinking.”
Educate Many people who born before Penicillin was discovered believe that pain promotes healing. Say, “We used to think that pain was good. Now we know pain is bad for the body and the brain.”
Tolerate differences You might manage medication differently if you were the person in pain. You are not. Every person has their own scale on which they weight the risks against the benefits. Respect your loved one’s right to make choices about their own bodies
Use guilt as needed. When all else fails, say, “It’s hard for me to watch you in pain. Will you take some pain medication so I feel better?”
About Dr. Vicki Rackner, Dr. Vicki Rackner is a former surgeon, author and speaker who has improved the lives of tens of thousands of patients, family caregivers and health care professionals. A decade ago she left the operating room and clinical faculty appointment at the University of Washington School of Medicine to serve as a nationally recognized expert in the doctor-patient-caregiver collaboration.