When we think of wellness practices for seniors, we often think of prescription and over-the-counter medications. This association doesn’t come out of nowhere: Although those 65 and older constitute 12 percent of the population in the United States, they are responsible for “34 percent of all prescription medication use and 30 percent of all over-the-counter medication use.” According to one study, taking five prescriptions is the norm for 25 percent of those aged 65 to 69 and 46 percent of those aged 70 to 79.
Polypharmacy is already problematic in that medications tend to treat symptoms rather than underlying causes, but can be especially so for older adults. Metabolizing medicine is more difficult for seniors, meaning that they are more susceptible to confusion, dizziness, and falls. Drugs can also interact in unintended ways, and healthcare professionals can misidentify side effects as unrelated issues, thus prescribing additional medications.
A superior approach to wellness for seniors involves stepping outside the confines of Western medicine to offer more holistic treatment.
What is Holistic Medicine?
The philosophy behind holistic medicine maintains that establishing the right balance between the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of life is necessary for good health. If one of these parts is in bad shape, the other parts will suffer for it. As such, holistic medicine treats the entire person, including the body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
This comprehensive treatment can be especially effective for older adults. Rather than seeing seniors as a collection of their ailments, holistic medicine treats them as the multifaceted people that they are. It also addresses the cause instead of just relieving the symptoms, helping them to maintain a greater quality of life as they age.
Types of Holistic Treatments
After examining all lifestyle factors, practitioners of holistic medicine draw from a wide range of treatment options in order to help their patients optimize their health. Holistic medicine generally places responsibility on patients to improve their self-care, diet, fitness, mental health, and overall lifestyle practices, which is particularly crucial for seniors who have become overly reliant on others for their care. Practitioners typically provide any necessary education to facilitate this improvement.
In addition to providing standard Western medicine treatments whenever appropriate, holistic medicine practitioners prescribe a variety of complementary and alternative therapies, including:
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture shares the philosophy of holistic medicine in that it works to establish the right energy balance in the body. It can treat physical, emotional, and spiritual conditions, accomplishing everything from relieving pain to boosting mental health.
- Chiropractic care: Chiropractic care stresses the relationship between the mind and body, with the body’s structural condition affecting the body’s healing capabilities as well as mental health. Chiropractors make manual adjustments to the spine to correct displacements caused by injuries, poor posture, poor sleeping tendencies, and so on.
- Massage therapy: Massage therapists use their hands, fingers, elbows, forearms, and sometimes even feet to rub, press, and manipulate muscles and the body’s other soft tissues. Numerous massage styles exist to help patients heal injuries, relieve symptoms, mitigate health issues, and improve general health and wellbeing.
- Naturopathy: Naturopathy involves using natural treatments to unleash the body’s inherent healing capabilities. Treatments may include massage, acupuncture, herbs, exercise, dietary changes, detoxification, stress reduction, psychotherapy, and counseling.
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