Alternative Medicine, Integrative Medicine, Companion Care AlbuquerqueCompanion Care is a member of the New Mexico Association for Continuity of Care (NMACC) an organization that supports individuals who care for the elderly. Every month NMACC presents a speaker to educate the membership on one of the aspects of supporting senior health. In January the speaker was Dr. Arti Prasad, the Division Chief of General Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Integrative Medicine at UNM hospital.

As a practitioner of integrative medicine, Dr. Prasad knows first hand that alternative (complementary) medicine can play a very important role in the health and wellbeing of seniors. She pointed out that with our elder population living longer lives there are more chronic diseases to treat. Some illnesses are due to genetic factors, some to environmental and societal factors. 83% of Medicare patients have one or more chronic conditions.

The current healthcare reality is that most physicians have only an average of 9 minutes to spend with each patient. Therefore alternative (integrative) options often provide a more personal level of care. They also treat the whole person, not just the disease.

There are over 7000 studies on complementary care research to illustrate the effectiveness of various complementary/alternative approaches. A recent Blue Cross study found hospital stays reduced by 20-40% when integrative care was included.

Some of the types of the integrative care whose efficacy has been well documented include therapeutic massage, acupuncture and healing touch/Reiki therapies.

It should be pointed out that integrative medicine approach is complementary to allopathic (western) medicine. In other words, they work well together.

Integrative medicine focuses on self-care and supports practices that foster self healing. This would include making smart food choices and daily exercise. At the UNM Center for Life therapeutic massage, yoga and meditation are also recommended.

With over 8000 people turning 65 every day there is a growing need for more effective ways to treat common health issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart health issues, all of which affect millions of seniors. Primary care physicians can’t do it all. Doctors are also aging; the majority of doctors in practice today are 55 years or older. In 2012 there was a shortage of 50,000 primary care physicians in the US. There just are not enough younger doctors to fill the growing needs of the aging population.

Dr. Prasad encouraged health care providers to recommend including integrative medicine to support improved health and wellbeing of our aging nation.