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Geriatric medicine: A TCVM approach (Proceedings)

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Apr 01, 2009

According to the National Research Council, the term "senior" refers to an animal's functionality, such as decreased activity, weight gain, and other age-related physical and behavioral changes. The term "geriatric" refers to the animal's chronological age which differs according to size and species.

The goals for our geriatric patients include increased life expectancy, enhanced quality of life, decreased rate or cessation of progression of metabolic changes, delayed onset of diseases and dysfunctions, and decreased clinical signs of aging. Some of the inevitable changes that do occur include gastrointestinal dysfunction, decreased rate of intestinal transit time, diminishing enzyme activity, decreased absorption rate, decreased rate of excretion of nutrients, impaired circulation, decreased organ reserves, reduced lean body mass, decreased basal metabolism and decreased physical activity.

General Treatment Recommendations for Geriatric Patients

Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) treatment protocols may consist of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medication, Chinese food therapy, Tui-na, and daily exercise. Lifelong herbal medication is often required in geriatric patients due to the chronic nature of most geriatric diseases. As discussed earlier, optimal response to treatment occurs when 2 or more of these methods are utilized due to their synergistic interaction. General treatment recommendations for geriatric patients are:
  • Treat as early in the disease process as possible
  • Stimulate fewer acupoints and for a shorter duration
  • Avoid chronic use of strong herbals; use short courses if these herbals are necessary.
  • Administer 1/2 to 2/3 of the standard dosage of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medication
  • Lifelong herbal medication may be required due to chronic nature of most geriatric diseases
  • Exercise patients daily and combine with Tui-na (Chinese medical massage)

Chinese Food Therapy

The general TCM food therapy tenets for geriatric patients are:

  • Support the Middle Jiao
  • Support Kidney Essence
  • Prevent Qi or Blood vacuity

Easily digestible foods such as well cooked or pureed foods, porridges, master soups, stews, eggs and fish are recommended. Digestive enzymes help support the Spleen and Stomach as they aid these Zang Fu organs (TCM internal organs) in the transformation (digestion) of food. Probiotics, vitamin and mineral supplements and fish oil are also recommended. Avoid overfeeding, feeding late at night, rapid and extreme dietary changes, excessively cooling foods, raw foods and meals that are fatty, oily or roasted meals. In TCM, a high protein diet and heavy meat meals should also be avoided as they weaken geriatric bones and strain the Zang Fu organs of digestion, respiration and circulation.

Tui-na, An-mo

Tui-na, also known as An-mo, is a form of Chinese medical massage that is used for the prevention and treatment of disease. There are over 30 different techniques, most of which are applied to acupuncture points and meridians. Other Tui-na techniques involve stretching and gently shaking the limbs. Tui-na should be used cautiously and in moderation in very old and debilitated animals.

Systemic effects of Tui-na include unblocking and regulating meridians, regulating the circulation of Qi and Blood, balancing Yin and Yang, regulating Zang-fu organs, and strengthening the body's resistance. Local effects seen include removing stagnation, invigorating blood, decreasing/eliminating swelling, relieving spasms, reducing/eliminating tissue adhesions and smoothing joints.