When you think about your health, the first thing that may come to mind is your physical body, such as fitness, strength, eating habits, and blood pressure. As we age, we tend to pay closer attention to our physical health. Although 79 percent of health education research addresses the physical dimension of health, it’s not the only component of health you should focus on.

Holistic health care is an approach to health and wellness that focuses on the mind, body, and spirit. It’s been shown to contribute to overall wellness more so than focusing on any single aspect of well-being in elderly adults. Because all areas of your life are connected, an improvement in one area can influence your overall physical, emotional, and mental health and well-being. Seniors can live healthier and happier lives when they receive care that is wholesome.

This guide will provide a brief overview of holistic health care and what it looks like, how holistic health care is practiced in assisted living, and how to identify if an assisted living community uses a holistic approach to health care.

Defining Holistic Health Care for Older Adults

Holistic health care focuses on the whole person. Dating back to the times of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, holistic health care is at the science of nursing. She taught nurses to focus on the principles of holism of unity, wellness, and the link between human beings and their environment to bring a paired focus to their work.

Health care providers who recognize the benefits of holistic health care use both conventional practices and complementary approaches to address health care. They use an integrative approach to health care that combines traditional and non-traditional interventions for health and wellness, ensuring a focus on overall well-being rather than just managing the illness.

Benefits of Holistic Health Care

Seniors who receive holistic health care report higher levels of hope, dignity, self-discipline, social growth, a sense of autonomy, vigor, and vitality. Because holistic health care emphasizes holism and individualism rather than divided aspects of function or health, even elderly adults who are facing fatal illnesses describe being well, achieving personal goals, and living values, such as maintaining concern for loved ones, accomplishing meaningful work, and having fun.

Holistic health care teaches you how to use the connection between your body, brain, and mind to heal, cope, and be at peace with the many aspects of health and wellness that affect your overall outlook on life.

Defining Holistic Health in Older Adults

Providing Holistic Health Care in Assisted Living

When health care professionals have an open mind about whole-person wellness versus illness, there’s an increased opportunity to focus on your strengths and capabilities versus deficits and declines.

Approaches to Holistic Health Care

Holistic health care uses a wide range of approaches, including the use of natural products (such as tea), meditation, massage, aromatherapy, or other forms of complementary treatment. Holistic health care does not replace the need for conventional health care practices. Here are three different ways to receive holistic care in an assisted living setting.

  1. Aromatherapy

    Aromatherapy is the use of natural oils to enhance well-being. It’s become a trusted tool, used at major health care systems across the U.S., such as Fairview Health Services and Cleveland Clinic. It can reduce anxiety and pain, boost your mood and appetite, and promote sleep.
  2. Massage

    Massage therapy offers pain relief and can reduce anxiety and disruptive behaviors. A study using slow-stroke back massage found that physical expressions of agitation, such as pacing, wandering, and resisting, decreased when slow-stroke massage was applied. Massage helps soothe anxiety or agitation and can help decrease stress.
  3. Advocacy

    Communication and advocacy are large components of holistic health care. The relationship between you and your health care provider is based on respect, openness, equality, and mutuality. You are considered the most important person when it comes to making choices that influence your health and well-being. Unlike a strictly conventional approach to health care, you are the leader of the team, and your medical team professionals are some of the invited players.

Another key element of holistic health is getting to know more about your values in life. Holistic health providers believe that you are the expert on your life, values, and priorities, and only you know what really matters to you. By understanding your needs, they can help you make choices that influence your health and well-being.

Using traditional medicine to prevent and treat illnesses for older adults is also a part of holistic health care. Common treatments include checkups, medicine, supplements, physical therapy, or perhaps surgery. Holistic health takes into consideration the effects of illness on your entire life and your true needs instead of being concerned with only the disease.

Assisted living communities that prioritize holistic care focus on the social, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of their residents.

Social Well-Being

Social isolation has been linked to serious consequences in elderly adults’ health. These consequences can include increased mortality, quickly declining and lower overall cognitive performance, depression symptoms, and increased blood pressure.

Providing Holistic Health in Assisted Living

We’re happier and our brains are healthier when we connected and interact with others. Many assisted living communities offer activities and outings such as book discussions, card groups, walking clubs, or outings to local attractions that all encourage positive social relationships and improve your social well-being. When a new resident moves in, holistic health care assisted living communities ask about their interests, hobbies, and who they are as a person. They use this information to help customize the activities offered at the facility and try to partner the resident with someone else who may have similar interests.

Emotional Well-Being

Our overall mood affects all other aspects of our health. The emotional well-being and mental health is especially important in elderly adults as they face unique life stressors. To get up and going every day, we need to know that what we do matters. It’s easy for seniors to lose their sense of purpose as they age. Living in an assisted living can encourage a consistent routine. There are activities throughout the day and socializing with other residents to stay on a busy schedule.

Although anxiety and depression are also common among seniors, holistic health treatments can help. Soothing or inspirational activities, such as spa baths, aromatherapy, massage, and meditation, help ease anxiety and depression.

It’s also been shown that having a pet can provide a sense of responsibility and companionship. Living in an assisted living community that allows pets can boost a senior’s overall well-being. Research shows that pets can boost levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone, and reduce cortisol, the stress hormone.

Holistic health care communities also offer opportunities for support groups. These groups provide an opportunity for residents to sort through their feelings in an environment where others may be experiencing the same emotional impacts aging has to offer.

Physical Well-Being

Exercise and movement provide huge benefits for seniors. Providing energy, strength, and flexibility, exercise can also lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk for heart disease. But if you’re on your own, it can be tough to stay motivated enough to exercise. Holistic health care in assisted living facilities focuses on your physical well-being based on realistic goals, not just based on a physician’s orders. Activities could include standing or chair yoga, tai chi, bands, and weights, or walking.

Your physical well-being can also be affected by the kind of food in your diet. Holistic health care assisted living communities identify ways to decrease saturated fats and excessive use of sugars without jeopardizing the quality of the food. For example, some communities incorporate a “farm-to-table” dining program that includes fresh fruits or vegetables grown at the community.

Spiritual Well-Being

People with purpose tend to live longer, healthier, and happier lives. Elderly adults who engage in purpose-oriented activities develop rewarding relationships, experience great joy, and develop a general sense of well-being.

Assisted living facilities that take a holistic or wellness approach recognize that it’s easy for seniors to lose a sense of meaning and purpose and offer places where you can turn for strength and comfort. Whether you turn to spiritual or religious faith, find comfort in nature, connect with art or music, or just want to help others, a holistic health care assisted living community allows you to explore what fulfillment looks like in later stages of life.

Identifying Holistic Health Care Facilities

Meeting social, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs can become more difficult as you age. If you are considering moving to an assisted living facility, it’s important to find one that is committed to a holistic health care approach and will support you in obtaining and maintaining optimum health for your body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

Here are some questions to ask an assisted living facility that you may be considering:

  • How does the assisted living community define “wellness?” Do they recognize and address the whole person?
  • Do you feel like a valued person working as a partner with the assisted living facility? Do they seem to care about you, take your medical history personally, and show an interest in your family, lifestyle, and diet? Are there various treatment options that expand beyond conventional treatment?
  • What approaches does the facility take to help residents achieve their full potential? Do they affirm their positive qualities and strengths?

Holistic health care identifies ways to treat an illness or disease as well as promote overall health and well-being.

Holistic Health Care at Highgate

Highgate Senior Living practices a holistic approach by taking alternative routes to medication including massage, aromatherapy, and having a pet-friendly environment. Highgate also offers a delicious, nutritious food program in all it’s locations. If you think Highgate Senior Living is a good option for your loved one, or want to learn more about Highgate and all it has to offer, visit our website to learn more.

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