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Health Alternatives for the Elderly

Last year I went into the doctor because I wondered if I had a strain of influenza that was going around the area where we live.  It turned out that I only had a bad cold.  The thing that surprised me about this was that along with a prescription for cough medicine, the doctor also wrote a long list of supplements that I could take as well as other alternatives.  Topping the list were things like, “rest as much as possible” and “drink more clear liquids than normal”.  He then went on to add elderberry syrup, vitamin C or foods rich in vitamin C and garlic to the list, and said to diffuse eucalyptus, peppermint and lemon oils while sleeping to settle the cough down so I could sleep.  This was most certainly not the advice any doctor would’ve given just 20 years ago, but I found myself thankful for something proactive that I could do that would not harm my body and could possibly speed my recovery time.

For elderly patients, advice like this can be of great benefit.  Instead of telling a patient they have a cold & let them go home to suffer it out, a doctor can give them proactive advice like that listed above.  Even if the advice only shortens the duration by a couple of days or lessens the severity of the cold by a small amount, it can be a godsend for an elderly patient.  Elderly individuals are often at a higher risk for things like pneumonia. If that risk can be reduced by a fraction, over the whole senior care community, great strides can be made in quality of life.   Senior citizens are also more likely to have health changes for the worse that have quick onsets and turn serious very quickly.  It’s important to give them all the tools at our disposal so that they can be an active part of the healing process.

People have varying opinions about alternative medicines and therapies.  If you have a loved one, however, that has been to the doctor and the doctor is not able to give a clear diagnosis or treatment plan, you may want to consider utilizing some alternative ways to find wellness for that individual.

For musculoskeletal issues like strain, joint pain, and muscle pain, consider bringing them to a reputable chiropractor, physical therapist or massage therapist.  All these providers have different ways to work on the human body, and it would be beneficial to find ones that are adept at working with elderly patients.  Your loved one may find relief from some of their aches and chronic pain by going to one of these types of providers.  Likewise, they may want to try different types of stretching classes, or elderly fitness classes to re-build muscle mass that has been lost due to periods of intense pain.

For gastro-intestinal disorders, first consider a therapeutic probiotic on a regular basis.  A nutritionist can get you started on the right path.  Be sure to add only one thing to the current regimen of medications at a time and try it for at least 2 months so that you are aware of any drug/supplement interactions.  Also, notify your doctor of supplements.  It is rare, but some of them can interact with other medications to make them less effective.  Since more people are taking them, however, research is being done on them and pharmacists and doctors are now becoming aware of which drugs/supplements should not be taken together.  Also consider dietary changes that you can make.  Sometimes more fiber or more protein in your diet can go a long way to improving health.  Talk to a nutritionist and list your specific complaints as they might have a good idea of what could work.

If you want to improve your cardiovascular health, be sure that you’re getting exercise that is appropriate for your age.  A fitness expert might help with this.  Some exercises are unrealistic and even dangerous for elderly frames.

Aroma therapy, light therapy and vitamin B have also been found helpful for elderly patients that suffer from depression.  Also, things as simple as talking with a psychologist or changing their schedule so that they can go out and attend events in their neighborhood more often.

There are as many things to try as there are ailments in the world.  Don’t stop until you have some answers.  If these things do not work, consider another doctor’s opinion.  Talk at length with them about some things that you’d like to try.  If they haven’t come up with a plan and are unwilling to discuss alternatives, find a different doctor.  These days, it is common to get a second opinion, and no doctor worth his/her salt should balk at that if your health is really their interest.

Change is most often seen not with a huge intervention, but as a sum of several small improvements over time.  Do not disregard alternative medicines and therapies as being inconsequential, especially for elderly patients.  They may be the things that improve their quality of life enough for them to remain active and viable members of our community for a much longer period of time.



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