Integrated Geriatrics Is All About Patient Empowerment, Whole-Person Care

December 21, 2020

There’s been a shift taking place in the approach utilized to medically care for the elderly. It’s called integrative geriatrics, which advocates for whole-person care, is patient-centered, and principally uses a non-pharmacological approach. 

Current geriatric practices generally overprescribe medications and procedures and underutilize non-pharmacological, low-cost, high-touch methods, with patients typically shunning these standard practices because of their often-invasive approach. Integrative geriatrics focuses on the well-being and health of the individual as well as disease and illness, with an emphasis on prevention, nutrition, activities, purpose and goals.  

In essence, integrative geriatrics or integrative medicine involves bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way. The relationship between practitioner and patient is emphasized, with a range of healthcare professionals, disciplines, and therapeutic techniques employed to achieve health and well-being.

How does integrative geriatrics work in practical terms? The healthcare practitioners carefully listen to the patients’ concerns and work with them to develop a healing plan specific to their needs. The focus is on health maintenance and early intervention, providing patients with 

information, exercises, and self-care techniques to empower them to take control of their own health and support whole-person healing and well-being. Treatments may include acupuncture, nutrition and diet, botanical medicines, mind-body practices, and physical activity. The goals are to optimize aging and old age, promote self-care and prevention, increase mobility and function, provide purpose, increase wellness, assist with memory and cognition and manage medication and deprescribing. 

Utilization of an integrative medicine approach is getting increased attention amid the pandemic. This is because the overall health of one’s immune system is a critical variant in preventing/fighting the virus. For the most part, the elderly and those with coexisting conditions such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes succumb to the virus. Boosting one’s immune system, central to integrative medicine, can help in fighting off infections. 

Integrated geriatrics services are offered in assisted-living settings as well as to patients in home settings. The surge in the utilization of telemedicine in home health care could well contribute to increased adoption of an approach that is based on healing rather than focused on disease.  
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