A Look at Integrative Medicine for Elder Care

Updated on February 26, 2021

In elder care, especially, patient experience is priority number one. Many elders make frequent trips to see care providers, making improved patient experience a two-fold goal for providers. First, with frequent trips, positive experiences can be motivators to keep fighting. Second, elder care is a competitive field, and providing a positive experience also means positive reviews for a given care facility. 

Integrative medicine makes the elder care field even more competitive, as this emerging option focuses on including treatments for the mind and body along with medications. Alternative and holistic care options are becoming more appealing to those individuals in elder care as opiate addiction and other medication-related diseases continue to plague the United States. 

What is Integrative Medicine?

By textbook definition, integrative medicine is medical therapy that combines practices and treatments from alternative medicine with more conventional practices and a heavier focus on patient experience. The conventional side of the equation involves standard medications and beside nursing practices typical to a hospital visit. For elder care, this also means some forms of physical therapy and often IV sessions. 

The alternative side includes mind-body exercises to maintain positivity and focus. With proper mental exercises, cognitive function can be maintained, and even strengthened in the elder population. Things like Sudoku and crossword puzzles are regular activities for many elders, but in addition to being fun, they are also extending the mental life of a given person. 

Meditation is another part of the mind-body sect of integrative medicine, and it aims to soothe the mind just as a warm bath may soothe the body. Many elders also struggle to relax, and meditation is a proven means of reaching mental peace without the need for pharmaceuticals. Yoga is becoming more popular in elder care as well, and its meditative and physical wellness properties are highly touted by advocates of integrative medicine. 

 More than half of patients currently in elder care utilize some form of alternative medication, though some are now considered mainstream. With this, about half of seniors are partaking in integrative medicine, even if they don’t know it. 

Advantages of Alternative Medicine

Advocates of alternative medicine almost all agree that the biggest advantage is treating the “actual cause” of an ailment. Standard medications fix what’s broken, alternative medicines aim to fix why something is broken. Most know the old adage “mind over matter,” and it plays a very integral role in alternative medicine, hence the focus on mind-body routines and mental exercise. 

As mentioned in the introduction, it also aims to deliver a better patient experience, ultimately improving quality of life, especially for those individuals who frequent healthcare facilities. As prescription drugs continue to cause issues in America and beyond, most proponents also consider alternative medicine to be a safer route, and it’s certainly true regarding the potential for addiction, as no addictive substances are used in alternative medicine practices. 

With the lack of pharmaceuticals also comes a lack of side effects, which is often the most alluring thing about alternative care for many patients who have struggled with additional sicknesses caused by trying to fix a given ailment. The flexibility that is offered via alternative care is also enticing for many on the younger side of the elder care spectrum who still want to travel frequently and enjoy retirement to the fullest. 

Worth a Try?

Integrating alternative medicine into you or a loved one’s health regimen should not be a whimsical decision, and each patient presents different situations that should be evaluated by professionals prior to adding alternative medicine to a proverbial healthcare diet. But given the non-addictive nature of these practices, if a professional says you or your loved one could benefit from integrative medicine, then it’s certainly worth a try as it can be quit as easy as it can be started. 

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