Monday, March 25, 2013

Integrative Therapy Benefits

Improves Quality of Life

There are more than 600 million visits a year between patients and alternative medicine providers in the US—and the number is growing.

You can call it alternative, complementary or integrated therapy—it is a group of diverse practices and products not considered a part of traditional Western medicine.  But whether you are a skeptic or a proponent, there is no denying that the public is looking for it. 

For those patients who want this kind of treatment, it undeniably works to improve their quality of life.  After all, a hand massage with aromatherapy and soothing music would improve most peoples’ moods and lower their blood pressure and stress.  As simple as that, quality of life is improved.

More and more hospices are adding Integrated Therapies to their armamentarium for achieving comfort and improving quality of life.  As far back as 2004 60% of hospices reported offering complementary treatments (the most popular being music therapy and massage).  The main obstacles to providing these services are lack of adequate funds, knowledge and qualified personnel.  Other Integrated Therapies include animal visits, guided imagery and art therapy.

Pathways has a robust Integrative Therapies Program that provides numerous benefits. Patients report:

  • A sense of control when so much control over their lives has been lost
  • Improved pain management
  • Enhanced emotional wellbeing and decreased anxiety
  • Opportunities to experience pleasure
  • Better quality sleep and decreased fatigue
  • Enrichment in their lives
  • Decreased nausea and enhanced appetite
Integrative Therapies often do not lend themselves to randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trials due to the very subjective nature of the discipline.  However, risk-benefit analyses demonstrate very low risk—won’t hurt, might help.

The holistic nature of hospice is a setting made for Integrative Therapies.  They have repeatedly been shown to provide physical, emotional and spiritual benefits to patients and their families.

One Patient’s Story

Advanced pancreatic cancer was Mr. B’s grim diagnosis.  A resident of a SNF, he had prognosis of a few weeks when referred to Pathways by the distressed facility.  During the admission to hospice, the patient disclosed that he was a Christian Science practitioner and was not open to using any medications to manage his rather severe symptoms.

With this limitation, Pathways quickly initiated several Integrative Therapies and held a stat inservice for the SNF staff and his family.  Hospice volunteers, personal care aides, spiritual care counselors, social workers and nurses all contributed their Integrative Therapy skills.  Mr. B received massages, aromatherapy, guided imagery, Reiki, music therapy and comfort touch.  We also involved the family, asking them to find movies, CDs and other forms of distraction that Mr. B would respond to.

Although his pain was never completely gone, the patient reported it was significantly decreased and that he noticed an improved ability to cope with the pain that remained.  Until he died about three weeks after admission, Mr. B reported that Integrative Therapies had helped manage his symptoms to a level he deemed acceptable. 

This article was originally published in Pathways Physician & Health Professional Bulletin - Issue 26.  To download this issue in PDF format, or past issues, visit our newsletter archives online at


  1. Wonderful article! Yes integrative therapy has many benefits of our health. It can help us to improve quality of life. back and neck pain bergen county