Thinking over C’s life I have been most stressed when C is in pain either through self injury or when he has been ill and it has been difficult to diagnose as he wont let anyone near him, so sometimes the illness gets left untreated for long periods because of his self injury. And then when diagnosed it is difficult to get medication down him! It can be a vicious circle. We all feel and show pain differently. We all tolerate different amounts of pain. Some of us even like inflicting pain on ourselves. People look at C and assume because of his head banging he must have a high pain threshold. But when he is in pain he head bangs more. Others see it as this is just what C does. Not that he is trying to tell us something.
So I was very interested to read this summary of a local project that has recently been done. The project involved talking to people with learning disabilities, residential and day service staff and carers. The project found that; 14% of day staff, 33% of residential staff and 66% of family carers think that people with learning disabilities have a higher pain threshold than people with out learning disabilities.
There is no evidence that people with learning disabilities have a higher pain threshold than other people.
86% of day service staff said that they had taken medication for pain within the last 3 months. Only 4% of people with learning disabilities had been offered medication in the same period of time 79% of residential staff that they had taken medication for pain within the last 3 months. Only 39% of people with learning disabilities had been offered medication in the same period of time. We all need to know that; People with learning disabilities feel pain as badly as other people. People should not have to be in pain. People with a learning disability may not say they are in pain, but their behaviour might change. (doesn't every ones?!) We need to find out if people with a learning disability are in pain before saying they have "challenging behaviour". Staff and carers can use pain picture cards with people. However for some like C who is unable to use picture cards so pain signals and treatment should be identified in the person’s Health action plan.