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'Getting on with life': the experiences of older people using complementary health care

Cartwright, Tina (2007) 'Getting on with life': the experiences of older people using complementary health care. Social Science & Medicine, 64 (8). pp. 1692-1703. ISSN 0277-9536


Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.11.034


Surprisingly few studies have explored the use of complementary medicine amongst older persons and existent research is typically restricted to those who can afford private treatment. The aim of the current qualitative study was therefore to explore the experiences of older people using subsidised complementary health care. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 regular attendees of a single centre offering low cost complementary health care to the over 60's. The sample was randomly drawn from the patient register and included patients from mixed social and ethnic backgrounds. Transcripts was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The core theme underlying participants' accounts related to the desire to 'get on with life' and maintain physical and social functioning within the constraints imposed by chronic conditions. Consequently, the physiological effects of treatment were highly valued, particularly reductions in pain and improved mobility. Psychological effects operated at a more subtle level, influencing perceptions of health and well-being. The empowering nature of treatment enabled participants to regain a sense of control over their health, which reduced anxiety and facilitated 'normal' functioning. The whole package care was perceived as an important source of support and reassurance in contrast to the impersonal experiences of orthodox medicine. Complementary health care was therefore perceived as an important adjunct to orthodox medicine, particularly in terms of its impact on everyday functioning and well-being. Implications for the quality of life of older people with complex health needs and limited access to private complementary health care are discussed.

Item Type:Article
Research Community:University of Westminster > Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages, School of
ID Code:4078
Deposited On:30 May 2007
Last Modified:11 Aug 2010 15:32

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