Use of complementary medicines and lifestyle approaches by people living with dementia: Exploring experiences, motivations and attitudes

Publication Name

International Journal of Older People Nursing


Background: Lack of effective treatments for chronic conditions is associated with high rates of complementary medicine (CM) use. However, little is known about CM use for dementia. Aims and Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore the experiences, motivations, and attitudes towards CM use by people living with dementia in an Australian setting. Design: This study had a qualitative research design; quantitative demographic information was also collected. Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with people living with dementia and their caregivers (N = 18). A thematic (inductive) analysis approach was taken to interpret data. Results: Three in four participants used CM for dementia, spending ~AUD$100/month (USD$70/month). Within three overarching themes, a range of sub-themes was identified: (1) CM knowledge and use: people living with dementia and caregivers understanding of CM, types of CM used, and CM usage patterns; (2) Self-determined reasons for use/non-use: maintain or improve quality of life, hope, management of dementia symptoms, level of awareness, willingness and evidence, perceptions on efficacy and safety of CM, experiences of conventional medicine, and holistic approach to wellness; (3) External determinants of use: information on CM, relationship influences on CM use, and experiences with General Practitioners (GPs) and CM. Conclusion: Findings highlight that CM use is widespread and positively viewed by people living with dementia and their caregivers. Decisions regarding CM use were based on personal opinions. Findings have important implications for conversations with health professionals regarding CM use by people living with dementia to improve communication, health literacy, and reduce the risk of adverse effects through polypharmacy. Implications for Practice: This study showed that CM is a valued approach for dementia management by people living with dementia, their families, and healthcare providers. Future international research is required to evaluate the efficacy and safety of these approaches and promote accurate advice in nursing care.

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Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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