Your elderly loved one doesn’t have to suffer through migraines
Seniors often deal with bothersome headaches, but migraines aren’t necessarily common among this age group. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that fewer than 5 percent of men and 10 percent of women over age 75 experience them. To compare, 10 percent of men and 25 percent of women ages 18 through 44 routinely cope with severe headaches and migraines.
If you are a caregiver for an elderly loved one who experiences migraines, these statistics may leave you feeling a little helpless. Where can you turn for quality geriatric migraine treatment, and how can you ensure your loved one remains comfortable while dealing with severe pain? DispatchHealth is here to help. We provide on-call, in-home medical treatment to seniors with all types of non-life-threatening health concerns, including migraines. When you request care, we’ll promptly send a qualified, fully-equipped medical team to your loved one’s home to provide relief from migraine symptoms. This spares you and your loved one the hassle of traveling to a loud and crowded urgent care clinic or emergency room for a non-life-threatening condition—a miserable thought for someone suffering through a migraine. Plus, we make in-home medical care affordable; a visit from DispatchHealth is nearly one tenth of the cost of an emergency room visit and about the same as a visit to the urgent care clinic.
If this is an emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
Migraine symptoms & when to seek treatment
First, let’s take a look at the differences between a migraine and an ordinary headache. A headache is a very common medical complaint (quite possibly the most common) that is characterized by pain or pressure anywhere in the head. Headaches affect people of all ages and can take several forms, including sinus headaches, cluster headaches, and tension headaches. In general, the pain associated with the common headache is not debilitating and can be treated by simply resting, drinking water, or taking over-the-counter pain medication.
A migraine, on the other hand, is a more severe headache that is accompanied by debilitating pain and neurological symptoms, which can include:
- Throbbing pain, often on one side of the head
- Temporary vision loss
- Seeing flashes or “floaters” in your line of vision
- Pain behind an eye or ear
- Extreme sensitivity to sound or light
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain around the temples
Migraine episodes can linger for a few hours to a few days and severely impact one’s ability to perform everyday actions and live a normal life. They may occur rarely or strike multiple times a month. Some people with migraines experience “prodrome” symptoms one to two day before a migraine episode, which can include mood swings, constipation, neck pain, and increased thirst. Others experience “aura” shortly before or during migraines that is characterized by temporary vision loss, shapes and flashes in the line of vision, numbness in the extremities or the face, and hearing odd noises.
When seniors suffer from migraines, they may also experience what is known as “late-life migraine accompaniments.” Sometimes, late-life migraine accompaniments can even occur without the headache. This group of symptoms may be similar to or the same as a migraine aura and involve loss of vision, blurry vision, numbness, loss of coordination, trouble with speech, vertigo, and various other problems.
Migraines themselves typically don’t require professional medical attention if your loved one has already received a treatment or symptom management plan from his or her physician. Still, the pain can be difficult to live with, especially if your loved one experiences multiple migraines a month. It’s always a good idea to consult a medical professional if he or she experiences new or particularly severe symptoms, or if episodes begin occurring more frequently.
What triggers migraines in seniors?
When an elderly person experiences an intense headache, it is sometimes related to an injury or another medical condition (secondary headache). For example, a headache may be associated with:
- Head trauma. Roughly one third of people older than 65 experience a falling accident at least once a year, and many of these accidents involve head injuries that can lead to severe headaches.
- Temporal arteritis (TA). Headaches are the most common symptom of temporal arteritis, a condition that prompts the temporal arteries to swell and narrow.
- Trigeminal neuralgia. This condition occurs when the trigeminal nerve that controls facial feeling is compressed, which can cause extreme facial pain.
- Stroke. A severe headache often accompanies a stroke. If you or your loved one has a sudden and intense headache, seek emergency medical care.
As previously mentioned, there are subtle differences between a migraine and an intense headache. Migraines are largely considered to be a primary headache disorder, which means it does not result from another medical condition. Some common migraine triggers in people of all ages include hormonal changes, stress, lack of sleep, certain medications, high-impact physical activity, and sensory stimuli like loud noises and bright lights.
How to better prevent and manage migraines in seniors
While migraines and intense headaches are not entirely preventable, there are steps you can take to reduce the number of monthly episodes your loved one experiences and help ease his or her pain. With his or her physician’s guidance, your loved one can benefit from:
- Taking medications designed to prevent or relieve the symptoms of migraines
- Drinking plenty of water
- Staying active with low-impact exercises like walking and swimming
- Alternative approaches like herbal remedies, vitamins, and acupuncture
- Engaging in relaxing activities like journaling and yoga
- Getting more sleep
If left untreated
Migraines don’t last forever. Most pass after about 4 hours, but some can linger and start occurring more frequently. If your loved one is struggling to cope with migraines or severe headaches, there’s no reason to avoid treatment when medical intervention can provide relief.
Chronic conditions like migraines and the disorders associated with them are best managed by a medical specialist or primary care provider. However, if your loved one needs prompt relief for a severe headache, waiting days for an appointment simply isn’t an option. That’s where DispatchHealth can help. Within a matter of hours after you contact us, a qualified medical team will be at your loved one’s doorstep ready to assist. We are equipped to provide many of the same services that an emergency room provider can, and will send a detailed medical report to his or her physician to ensure a seamless care experience. We have a pharmacy of medications that can be administered through an injection, by mouth, or intravenously if required, all of which is safe and effective to do in the comfort of your home.
Contact DispatchHealth via our app, our website, or over the phone to request care today. We accept most major health insurance carriers, including Medicare and Medicaid, and offer an affordable flat rate to uninsured patients.
If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Phil Mitchell MD, MS on October 3rd, 2019