PAIN is subjective and people have different levels of tolerance so dealing with it can be tricky. Pain and illness often come hand in hand, but sometimes one comes without the other.

Pain also varies for individuals. What is painful to you may not be so for another. So you can’t dismiss someone’s pain as something that’s merely in his mind. The last thing you want to do is trivialise someone’s pain and agony.

While also observing and discerning that it’s not just attention-seeking behaviour, you don’t want to dismiss it entirely either. There must have been something to cause it, real or imagined. Either way, seeking treatment to manage pain will help the patient and caregiver. He or she may need a physician or a psychologist.

So as a caregiver, what would you do when the person in your care is in pain? The pain may be from broken bones, surgery, cancer or any illness or injury. Sometimes it’s from an old injury and the pain comes back every now and then. Some complain of pain when the weather changes, usually when it becomes colder.

Have you heard of those who claim they can predict the weather by their arthritis or rheumatism? Several doctors and therapists say it’s not so strange.

Joint pain can get worse when it’s cold or rainy. Although there are mixed responses from studies but some experts say a change in barometric pressure affects joint pressure. Like everything else, some people are more sensitive to these atmospheric changes than others.

There are also those who are in constant pain; they will rate their level of pain between 1 and 10. How can you help them manage their pain?

You try to calm the person and get help. Find someone who knows what to do. Get that person to the clinic or hospital for immediate medical attention.

If you have someone in your care that’s dependent on you, prepare yourself by reading up on pain management and palliative care. You may already know the diagnosis. Now you need to learn more about how to manage the person’s needs and routines.

One of the first things in pain management is medication. Giving medicines and keeping to a certain treatment plan is quite straightforward. You must also be mindful of the types of medications they are on (will it make them drowsy?) and when to take them (before, during or after meals, or just before bedtime).

Can the pill be crushed or broken into halves and quarters? You can’t do that with some medicines, and some can’t swallow large tablets. So ask for alternatives like a liquid version.

As a general rule, if the medication is prescribed for twice a day, then it’s 12-hourly. As for three times a day, it usually means eight-hourly, and six-hourly for four times a day. The logic behind keeping to regular times for taking medications is so that there is enough medicine in the bloodstream to do what it’s supposed to do.

Whether the medications are for pain control, diabetes, heart, epilepsy, or just any treatment plan, you must follow instructions. Most importantly, you should not stop medications abruptly. Stopping long-term medications has to be done gradually.

Antibiotics should not be stopped just because you feel better. You must finish the course otherwise the bacteria in your body can mutate and develop resistance.

Never double a dose for missed medications unless the doctor says so. Doubling can make you feel drowsy and nauseous, if not sicker.

The thing about pain is that you can never really know how the other person feels or interprets it. You may have suffered the same illness or injury, but your experience can be quite different. When you’re caring for someone who’s unwell, you should try to empathise with his or her situation. What worked for you may not work for the one in your care.

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang. You can reach her at [email protected]