Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Eldercare


If you're providing eldercare to your parent and have wondered whether complementary or alternative medicine could enhance your parent's standard elder health care plan, the National Institutes of Health's Senior Health website includes a terrific section on alternativemedicine, elder health care, eldercare, geriatric careComplementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Here are some highlights from the site:

  • Complementary medicine is defined as being used alongside traditional geriatric care, such as when acupuncture is used for pain management along with standard pain treatment.
  • Alternative medicine is defined as being used in place of traditional geriatric care, such as using herbal remedies to treat heart disease instead of standard elder health care treatments.
  • More doctors are embracing the idea of "integrative medicine," where traditional geriatric care is combined with CAM, and research is starting to support this approach as well.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds research on the effectiveness of CAM for conditions commonly seen in elder health care, such as heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer's. For instance, NIH is funding studies on the effectiveness of meditation and garlic in the treatment of heart disease.
  • NIH recommends talking to your parent's geriatric care physician before starting any CAM approach. It's important to learn about the scientific research supporting any CAM treatment and to not just trust advertisements and commercial websites geared toward elder health care clients.
  • Almost two-thirds of those over the age of 50 use CAM, but less than one-third of those that use CAM actually talk to their geriatric care providers about it. It's very important to tell your parent's elder health care providers about any CAM approaches or supplements being used because they could interact with or negatively affect standard geriatric care treatment.

The website also includes frequently asked questions and several videos about popular complementary and alternative medicine approaches. If you've visited the site, let us know what you think. And, if your parent uses complementary or alternative medicine as part of his or her eldercare plan, please share your experiences with other caregivers. Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our email list to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on

--Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D