Investigating Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Seniors

Katrina Marie Ward, Renee MacPhee



Objectives: Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is used regularly by 70% of Canadians,2,3 but when compared to younger users ofCAM, seniors tend to use it less frequently. Using a phenomenological approach, this study sought to explore the attitudes and beliefs of seniors towards the use ofCAM. 

Methods: This qualitative study used either in-depth personal interviews or focus group interviews as the primary means of data collection. Participants in the study were individuals who had either usedCAM in the past, or who were currently usingCAM.

Results: Participants described that they would use conventional treatment for pathological disease, but would prefer to useCAM in certain circumstances as it was perceived to be a more natural approach. Exercise was also described as a form ofCAM. Deterrents forCAM use include: limited scientific evidence; cost; and the attitudes of others (e.g., physicians, the public). 

Conclusion: Participants felt that they had positive experiences usingCAM as an adjunct to conventional medicine, and felt that they had no personal barriers to accessingCAM. A major deterrent ofCAM use was the limited scientific evidence, while minor factors included cost and the attitudes of others. Open discussion aboutCAM use should take place between physician and patients. 

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