Caregiving Strategy


A woman assisting an man with back pain

One of the most challenging aspects of caregiving is not knowing what to do when the person you are caring for is experiencing pain.

Pain is typically defined as suffering or discomfort as a result of something going on inside the body (e.g. illness or injury).

The Pain Chapter explores the following topics:

  • Recognizing pain, including indicators that the person you care for is in pain.
  • How to determine the severity and type of pain the person you care for is experiencing.
  • Techniques and strategies to help manage the pain the person you care for is experiencing (including but not limited to medication).
  • Understanding pain medication, medication tolerance, dependence and addiction.
  • Common myths and facts about pain and pain management.

Common Terms

Throughout the Pain Chapter, we’ll explore the following terms:

New (acute) An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with injury or obvious disease process. It is usually short in duration (i.e., one week to 10 days).
Long-Term (chronic)Prolonged pain lasting at least three months beyond the time of new injury or obvious onset of a disease.
Referred Sometimes, pain can be felt in another part of the body. An example of this would be when someone feels arm pain with a heart attack. Referred pain can occur with both acute and chronic pain.
Neuropathic Pain that is primarily caused by a problem in the nervous system rather than by an obvious injury. It is often described as burning, tingling, shooting, or ‘pins and needles’. Neuropathic pain typically feels worse at night.
Breakthrough Pain that is felt even when a person is taking pain medication. Their pain ‘breaks through’, and they require another pain remedy.
Tolerance When a person has been on the same medication for a long period of time and requires an increase in the amount taken for the medication to work to decrease pain.
Dependence When a person experiences discomfort or physical effects (sweating, nausea, etc.) if they are taken off pain medication too quickly.
Addiction When a person takes a pain medication (e.g. an opioid) to feel something other than pain relief.

Resources to Support Someone in Pain

  • The Pain Scale will help you assess the severity of pain that the person you care for is experiencing. It is quite simple but when used regularly over a period of time it will help you and the person you care for better understand pain and identify patterns. 

    Download the Pain Scale
  • The Daily Pain Diary will help you and your health care providers determine what makes the pain better and what makes it worse. After a few days of regular tracking you will likely start to see important trends.

    Download the Daily Pain Diary
  • Meditation for Pain Management is a resource that provides links to several popular guided meditation resources and apps.

    Download suggested sources of meditation for pain management
  • The Pain Chapter also lists resources where you can learn more about specific types of pain and where you can get support from health care professionals and caregivers.

    Download the Pain Chapter

Next Steps

  • Download the Caregiving Strategies Handbook for reference to all chapters in one location.
  • If you want to learn more Caregiving Strategies, register for the online course. This course allows you to work through these topics at your own pace alongside other caregivers.
  • Sign up below if you would like to receive updates from RGPO about resources for caregivers and or upcoming online course offerings.