Holistic Health Care for Seniors
While holistic medicine has been utilized for thousands of years in ancient cultures, only in the past few decades have these practices infiltrated themselves into mainstream society within the US. The term holistic medicine is commonly used to refer to a wider system of treatments and practices that aren't typical within conventional Western medicine. Holistic health care addresses the body as a whole amid three principle aspects: the mind, the body, and spirit.
Within the philosophy of holism, it is believed that all three of these elements must be treated in an overall fashion to promote and attain wellness, rather than focusing on one specific injury or illness. However, there are numerous sub-sects of holism concepts that are often used interchangeably with holistic medicine, but they do vary slightly.
The Difference Between Holistic Medicine and Alternative Medicine
Falling under the umbrella term of holistic medicine are alternative medicine and complimentary medicine. Alternative and complimentary care differ in the fact that these practices tend to treat the immediate area of concern, albeit often using holistic or homeopathic methods. However, unlike holism, these practitioners don't address the mind and spirit aspects of the healing process. Of course, addressing physical symptoms is essential, which is why many seniors may use an alternative healer for immediate relief and then visit their holistic practitioner to integrate other elements into their treatment.
Types of Holistic Health Care for Seniors
Many wonder exactly how integration of the mind, body and spirit works when it comes to holistic medicine. Essentially, holistic and alternative medical systems are those designed to offer comprehensive approaches originating from traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine principals to address the entire essence of the human body while treating symptoms from the source. These techniques may include:
- Biologically Based Treatments — Homeopathy treatments such as herb-based regimens and using aromatherapy for emotional and physical wellness are often employed in holistic medicine.
- Mind and Body Interventions — Approaching social, psychological and behavioral issues with therapeutic treatments such as meditation, support groups, relaxation skill classes, yoga, meditation, etc. These practices are especially useful for chronic and terminal seniors seeking care.
- Energy Therapies — Everything in the universe is comprised of vibration and energy, and holistic medicine often relies upon these therapies for healing. Some examples include ultrasonic, electromagnetic and subtle energies such as those employed during Reiki and quantum touch and polarity treatments.
- Physical Manipulation — Body-based methods such as chiropractic manipulation, physical rehabilitation and physiotherapy techniques that are scientifically proven to improve both the body and mental health are holistic treatments. Massage therapy and acupuncture are also commonly called upon.
Why Many Seniors Turn to Holistic Care Practices
Many seniors turn to holistic care in their golden years because they understand and appreciate the importance of the mind/body/spirit connection. Holistic care is also an option for seniors who want to avoid taking excessive prescription medications for ailments that natural substances and treatments can potentially help resolve. Others have lost faith in allopathic medicine due to bad experiences.
Some have been diagnosed with a terminal condition and simply want spend their remaining days tending to their emotional happiness and spiritual sense of peace. Holistic medicine doesn't have to be an ‘all in' effort for all seniors, as many opt to supplement traditional Western practices with holistic and/or alternative health care. In fact, seniors can create their own holistic regimen for health and wellness under the guidance of a licensed practitioner.
Holistic Tips for Senior Mental Wellness
- Social Opportunities: Surprisingly, many seniors become more interested in socializing than they were in younger years. Likely because they were extraordinarily busy raising children, running a home, working a job and so on. Now is the time for seniors to get out there and see a show, visit museums, catch up with old friends, join an organization and stay social for greater happiness.
- Seek Counsel: Seniors should never hesitate to seek counseling if they feel as though they need someone to talk to. Resolving any old issues that may be impeding emotional wellness can often result from group or individual therapy or counseling.
- Foster Nurturing Relationships: Holistic practitioners often encourage seniors to let go of any harbored resentment, guilt or grief associated with family members and long-time friends for a number of emotional reasons. Furthermore, these relationships are essential for self-esteem, happiness and a greater sense of contentedness.
Holistic Tips for a Healthy Body
- Regularly See Medical Providers: Part of self care for seniors is scheduling regular visits with medical providers whether they are holistic or allopathic. Most individuals will have one or more physicians meeting their medical needs, so it's essential to keep both informed of what regimens are being performed and what supplements are being taken to avoid potential conflicts and side effects.
- Eat a Balanced Organic Diet: One thing all types of holism practitioners will recommend is to eat fresh and organic foods as much as possible. Avoid highly processed and fast food, and stick to fresh fruits, lean proteins, veggies and healthy grains. If in doubt about your diet, consult with your doctor about potential food sensitivities and how to balance a healthy diet with herbal supplements if needed.
- Regular Exercise: Regardless of age, exercise has tremendous benefits for the mind, body and spirit. Staying active keeps seniors flexible, strong and healthy. Golf, gardening, yoga, tennis, walking and bowling are popular activities that promote physical fitness.
- Get Adequate Sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for everyone, but especially the elderly population. Staying active daily will promote better sleep, and utilizing the relaxing effects of certain aromatherapy blends can also help.
Tips for Senior Spiritual Wellness
- Practice Faith: Regardless of whether you believe in a higher power or only in the physical realm of here and now, acknowledge your faith. Doing so helps maintain that connection and can often provide seniors with inspiration, help align with values, and find meaning in life.
- Consider Energy Therapies: Many seniors report feeling better after undergoing certain energy healing modalities. These therapies are based on energetic principles that relate to the body at a whole functioning organ. Try a few and see what flourishes.
- Mindful Practices: Spiritual rejuvenation can help seniors relax and feel more at peace. Put on some sunscreen, and commune with Mother Nature and get some sunshine and fresh air. Consider meditating regularly to stay mindful of our spiritual nature.
Holistic / Alternative Medicine and Insurance Coverage
The cost of any type of holistic care will vary depending on the services needed and where one lives. Unfortunately, the bulk of holistic medical care expenses are likely to be paid out of pocket. While the Affordable Care Act states that insurance companies not discriminate between licensed health care providers whether they practice tradition or alternative forms of medicine. However, this law doesn't mandate or require coverage for holistic treatments. Federal and state government programs such as Medicaid, SSI, Disability and Veterans benefits may be of assistance. When considering facilities or in-home care, be sure to inquire with your insurance company or the facility's social worker or financial department for assistance.
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