Holistic care a viable supplement to modern medicine, not a replacement
With Americans living longer and spending more on healthcare, health professionals say there is a need to consider different approaches to confront the changing landscape.Posted — Updated
The purpose of holistic care is not just the treating and healing of diseases, the AHHA says, but also helping patients reach a place of "optimal health."
Holistic senior care
Dave Comer, a physician assistant at Cambridge Village retirement community in Apex, has witnessed a trend towards a holistic view of medicine, which he sees as having benefits for the senior population he serves.
"I think that modern medicine is moving more toward a holistic model, especially in primary care. However, modern medicine is still characterized by a narrow symptom-oriented approach," Comer said. "If a patient's blood pressure is elevated, we usually treat that person's blood pressure with a medication. Maybe we need to look a little further at why that person's blood pressure might be elevated."
In Comer's experience, patients may come in with a specific symptom, but with a holistic approach, he said it is key to "keep looking for the story behind the story."
The body is a highly integrated synergy of systems, each having an effect on others. Doctors frequently tell their patients about basic health and wellbeing necessities like healthy eating, exercising, proper breathing and sleep.
Holistic models try to preempt health problems before they develop by considering overall health.
"It is looking at a person as a whole, not just a set of problems to solve. It is asking them about their life, their kids, their nutrition, their exercise, their hobbies," Comer said. "It is understanding that a problem in one aspect of the body can affect another part of the body."
He added, "In order to understand a person from a holistic approach would require us to look at the physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, social and lifestyle influences of that person."
Comer is seeing the use of treatments like turmeric for inflammation and essential oils for therapeutic aromatherapy among his peers. Natural remedies can also prevent dealing with the high costs of pharmaceuticals and their possible side-effects, he pointed out.
A role to play in future health care
Hippocrates is often called the father of modern medicine, but his approach is claimed by holistic health proponents, as well. This is because he focused on keeping overall health in tact so the body's natural ability to heal itself could emerge.
The belief is that a patient must be a full participant in their own health and healing by taking a big picture approach, and that doctors need to encourage and educate them in this direction.
"It is looking at a person as a whole, not just a set of problems to solve," Comer explained.
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