Ainsley MacIntyre, a master’s student in gerontology at the U of R, is looking for seniors to enrol in a pain management course.
Pain is not a natural part of the aging process, yet many seniors suffer daily.
Ainsley MacIntyre, a master’s student who specializes in gerontology at the University of Regina, is determined to improve the quality of life for those who have chronic pain.
Studying gerontology is a natural fit for the 24-year-old.
As a kid growing up in Sydney, N.S., MacIntyre had a close relationship with her four grandparents and regularly lent a helping hand to older folks.
“When I was at the grocery store with my mom and I saw older people struggling, I’d ask if they needed something or help out with their groceries,” MacIntyre said in a recent interview.
After earning a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience at Dalhousie University, she was admitted to the U of R’s graduate program in gerontology in 2016.
MacIntyre is focused on helping seniors control their pain. She is doing research on older adults who suffer from chronic pain — pain that lasts for more than three months.
She is looking for Canadians with chronic pain who are 65 years and older to enrol in a pain self-management course.
MacIntyre stresses that people who experience severe symptoms of depression or anxiety should not sign up for the course.
“I’m not a clinical psychologist so I have to screen out those who have severe depression or anxiety because if they’re a suicide risk, I don’t have the training to handle that,” she said. “This is not therapy because I’m not a therapist.”
The course is being offered online, but MacIntyre will mail out workbooks to those who aren’t tech savvy but are still interested in taking part.
Ideally everyone who wishes to participate in the study will have regular access to the Internet.
MacIntyre phones participants regularly for a brief chat during the eight-week course and follows up with them at the end of the study.
Some lessons are geared to help seniors distinguish between acute and chronic pain.
“They learn that the brain is very important,” MacIntyre said. “I think there is a misconception that pain is strictly physical, but the brain determines how much we experience pain.”
The course also provides guidance about how to avoid negative self talk.
“Thoughts can really influence how you experience your pain,” MacIntyre said. “If you have a poor emotional state, then it can actually worsen your pain.”
She is working under the supervision of Dr. Thomas Hadjistavropoulos, a psychology professor and director of the Centre on Aging and Health at the U of R.
After completing the course, research has shown that participants gain control over symptoms, increase their confidence, and return to living a meaningful life.
The first step in registering for the course is to complete a preliminary screening questionnaire. MacIntyre will contact seniors by telephone to further discuss the course after they complete the questionnaire.