Holistic health care is a phrase we hear a lot, but most of us would probably be hard pressed to come up with a definition. Indeed, even if we could, holistic health care means different things to different people, so definitions can change from one source to another.
The term holistic means approaching an entity as whole, because all of its parts are interdependent. As it relates to health care, a holistic approach addresses the whole person, paying attention to all of the interdependent parts, to achieve overall health and well being.
A holistic approach is aimed at maintaining a healthy body, mind and spirit. The understanding is, if there is a problem in any one area, it can affect the others, so we need to look after the whole person, mental and physical, to achieve maximum health.
Contrary to popular belief, holistic health care does not necessarily exclude symptom-based medical treatment. In cases of chronic conditions, diseases or temporary disabilities, especially those involving pain or quality of life issues, a holistic approach can include medicines, support for the body’s own healing ability and care for the patient’s emotional and spiritual well-being.
Especially with elderly patients, the impact of a debilitating physical ailment, coupled with the issues surrounding aging, can lead to mental and emotional issues, like anxiety, depression and isolation. Even a patient’s surroundings, like an unfamiliar hospital room or health care facility, can affect the patient’s ability to deal with an affliction in the best possible way.
In such cases, a holistic health care practitioner can work in partnership with the patient to provide care for the whole person, considering all the factors affecting the patient’s situation.
For example, if it is determined that a patient’s surroundings are adding to emotional stress or loneliness, simply moving to a more familiar setting could vastly improve the patient’s overall well-being and speed-up recovery.
Very often, a holistic health care provider becomes an elderly patient’s close friend and advisor, acting as an understanding intermediary between the patient, doctors and family.
Many studies show that lifestyle, our physical and mental activities, has the greatest impact on our overall health. A holistic approach to treatment of an ailing elderly patient makes sure their lifestyle constantly moves them towards better health.