Complementary and alternative medicine. Use in an older population

Adam T Williamson, Paula C Fletcher, Kimberley A Dawson
Journal of Gerontological Nursing 2003, 29 (5): 20-8
The aging North American population validates increased research of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by older adults. The purpose of this study was to examine older adults' attitudes and motivations toward CAM use in an attempt to explain its limited usage. Senior citizens (66 to 100 years) were qualitatively surveyed and interviewed to analyze trends in CAM use. Forty-two participants older than 65 completed a questionnaire and 10 of those same individuals participated in an interview session. Motivations for CAM use, prevalence of CAM use, knowledge of CAM, and physician attitudes were investigated. The results of the survey and interviews showed older adults' most prevalent motivations for using CAM were pain relief (54.8%), improved quality of life (45.2%), and maintenance of health and fitness (40.5%). Knowledge of CAM was extremely low across the entire sample, but a significant difference in knowledge level existed among CAM users and nonusers. The CAM therapies most commonly used by older adults were chiropractic (61.9%), herbal medicine (54.8%), massage therapy (35.7%), and acupuncture (33.3%). This sample of senior citizens perceived CAM treatments to be extremely beneficial. Increased education about CAM is needed for older adults and health professionals. Practitioners of CAM should try to understand older adults' motivations for using CAM therapies and be involved in educating older adults about CAM.

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