In addition to my private-practice patients, I also treat patients at a continuing care retirement facility that offers a variety of wonderful services to its residents. I visit the facility every other Monday and treat patients in the massage therapy room located in the Wellness Center. With the assistance of the Wellness Director, I posted signs throughout the facility with contact information. In the beginning I found that most of my patients were trying acupuncture out of curiosity. Those who were impressed with their results have become regular patients.
The average age of my Bayview patients is 80. Most have been prescribed multiple pharmaceuticals, are experiencing some form of physical pain (such as low back pain or arthritic pain), and are living with a chronic disease (most commonly, essential hypertension). It was immediately clear to me that I needed to adjust my treatment practices for my new group of patients. For example, it is important to physically assist the patient on to the treatment table. Also, adjustments in body positioning are necessary over the course of the treatment so as to prevent strain. In my private practice, patients are able to get themselves on to the treatment table and to adjust themselves comfortably on their own. At Bayview, I also stay in the room with the patient once I have inserted the needles. In private practice, I typically leave the room for short stretches to allow the patient to rest alone during their treatment. Finally, at Bayview I apply only acupuncture and tui na (Chinese therapeutic massage). In private practice I apply other treatments, such as cupping and moxibustion, as necessary. My Bayview treatments are slightly limited in that respect.
Treating Elderly Patients with Chinese Medicine
When it comes to treating elderly patients, in Chinese medicine we think about the quality of the patient’s kidney qi. One of the functions of the kidney is storing our essential qi, which is responsible for our growth, development, and reproduction. In addition, the kidney governs the bones and generates marrow, so the development and healing of the bones depends on the nourishment and activating force provided by the kidney’s essential qi. As we grow older, our essential qi weakens and the body slowly declines.
Often, when examining an older patient, I will see a presentation of both kidney qi deficiency and blood stasis. Examples of blood stasis are swelling, stabbing pain in a fixed location, purple-black and clotted blood beneath the skin, and a dark and purple tongue, to name a few. Falls are a common cause of blood stasis among the elderly; falls lead to bruising, which then leads to blood stasis. But one of the main causes of blood stasis among the elderly is kidney qi deficiency, which impairs the free flow of blood. Most of my patients at Bayview have this type of pattern: kidney qi deficiency with blood stasis. Although other disease patterns are of course present for each individual patient, this pattern is the most common underlying pattern I see and treat.
Good Results from Regular Treatments
I have seen good results treating the residents at Bayview. One of my patients has shared with me that since getting regular acupuncture treatments, she no longer becomes sick once a year, which had been her pattern for many years. In addition, she no longer has a yearly flare-up of a particular digestive disease. This patient also shared that she believes there is a connection between past emotional trauma and bodily pain (resulting from holding the trauma in the body) and that her regular treatments have helped resolve this. Another patient has reported that prior to receiving acupuncture treatments she would wake up every hour and a half throughout the night. Now she is sleeping 4-5 hours without waking up and her sleep is sound. Acupuncture is effective at any stage of life. At Bayview, it has helped improve the residents’ quality of life, and that is worth a lot.