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Elderly Patients Usually Keep Mum About Use of Alternative Medicine , Reveals Survey

Representatives of AARP and the National Center for Complementary //and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health, are urging consumers and physicians to communicate better, especially about alternative therapies they are trying out in order to ensure safe and integrated health care.

This is the outcome of a survey conducted by NCCAM, by examining the telephonic conversations of around 1600 patients, and their doctors.

It was observed that the 69 percent of the elderly (aged 50 years and above) who took complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) were not likely to discuss this with their doctors.

CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. It includes such products and practices as herbal supplements, meditation, homeopathy, and acupuncture.

Cheryl Matheis, AARP Director of Health Strategies says that though it is well known that elderly persons do use CAM, this was the first survey to study about the communication gaps existing between the patients and doctors, regarding the use of CAM.

Other findings included that women were more prone to discuss the use of CAM with their doctors than men and those in a higher income group were more likely to discuss their use of CAM than those of a lower income.

"An open dialogue between consumers and their physicians is critical to ensuring safe and appropriate integrated care," says Margaret A. Chesney, NCCAM’s Deputy Director. "As the Federal Government's lead agency for scientific research on CAM, NCCAM is especially committed to educating both consumers and health care providers about the importance of discussing the use of CAM and providing evidence-based information to help with health care decision-making."

The telephonic survey revealed reasons of the patients not discussing use of CAM with their doctors as the followi ng: the doctor never asked, they never knew they should tell the doctor about this and there was not enough time during the visit to tell the doctor about the use of CAM.

If the use of CAM was discussed with the doctors, the survey found that the areas discussed were: effectiveness of CAM therapy, whether to use it or to continue use, safety of CAM therapy and interaction of CAM with other medicines.

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