Older adults face numerous changes that happen concurrently with health issues that lead to pain. We have already discussed that chronic pain for example, involves a multidimensional and an emotionally complex experience for the older person. 

Embracing the Biopsychosocial Model

The challenges however are set for healthcare practitioners to identify and meet the needs of older persons experiencing chronic pain. Research shows that it is imperative for practitioners working with older adults to adopt and evaluate an older person from a holistic perspective, rather than just a medical one. A model like the Biopsychosocial Model goes away from the normative medical models and incorporates the understanding of psychosocial impacts. In fact, clinicians who recognise the emotional toll of chronic pain and empathise while listening can effectively address psychosocial aspects.

Empathy and Psychosocial Understanding

By ignoring or downplaying chronic pain, healthcare professionals hinder older adults’ ability to adapt and cope effectively. This is particularly evident as many older persons identify that they felt they were not being believed. Or that their pain intensity was not being extensively understood. This might possibly indicate that professionals were only looking at the older person from a medical model perspective. 

Identifying that understanding the multidimensionality of chronic pain through the implementation of the Biopsychosocial Model is a critical component. It is the best way to manage the pain of older persons. Clinicians unable to perceive psychosocial impacts struggle with treatment. Listening is important. But hearing what is being said and even what is not being said, is an imperative part of the process of empathising with older adults who are going through a lot. 

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Yaser Teebi works as a Clinical Psychologist and Gerontologist at Willingness. He works with a variety of complex issues and adult age groups, including chronic pain, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, trauma, loss, grief and bereavement, relationships and cognitive impairment. Yaser Teebi has graduated from the following degrees with Merit: Bachelor of Psychology (Hons), a Master of Gerontology and Geriatrics, and a Master of Psychology in Clinical Psychology, all at the University of Malta. He is currently reading for a PhD in Clinical Psychology and Geriatrics at the University of Birmingham.