Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Older Adults and Prevalence of Reporting Use to Physicians

Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Science



Department or Program Chair

Barbara Ganley, PhD

Thesis Advisor

Debbie Daunt, MSN, RN


Although research suggests that there are significant numbers of people that utilize various forms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), there is limited knowledge about CAM use among older adults. There has not been a strong focus to study utilization of CAM among an elderly population. Yet, this focus seems extremely important related to the disproportionate health care expenses that are incurred by older adults to treat medical conditions. The need to increase knowledge regarding CAM use among older adults is critical given the unprecedented growth of the population of elderly in this country. The purpose of this study will be to better understand the patterns and prevalence of CAM use among older adults. The present study will also examine the rate of reporting CAM use to physicians among a population of community dwelling older adults.

A descriptive, quantitative survey design was utilized. The sampling frame consisted of 30 community dwelling older adults (age 64 years and older) who live in 3 subsidized housing apartment complexes in Marin County. California. Data analysis was carried out using SPSS software (v.14). A total of 30 face-to- face surveys were completed. Results from the study show that the majority of the subjects reported using CAM therapies to treat a chronic health condition and to maintain their health. The overall rate of CAM use was 87%. Fully one-third of the study population did not report CAM use to their physicians. Findings suggest that there is significant interest in the use of CAM among elderly persons and suggest the importance of further research into the use of these therapies within the senior population.