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Homeopathy for a healthy retirement

A remedy for both ends of life

It is trendy to be a "senior"! According to census figures for the year 2000, people aged 65 and older account for approximately 13% of the U.S. population. Since 1970, the average age has increased by about two years per decade, and that trend will pick up pace over the next few decades so that by 2050 a projected 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 and older.

Adverse reactions and side effects
As the population ages, the medical concerns of the elderly will need to be carefully considered. According to a study conducted by the California State Board of Pharmacy in 2002, more than 23 million American seniors take between one and six prescription medications each day, accounting for more than half of all prescription drugs dispensed.
     Unwanted side effects and adverse reactions are seven times more common in the elderly than in younger people. Sometimes these adverse reactions are due to medications that are not being taken according to directions; other times the problems result from inappropriate drug combinations. A Canadian study found that just over one fifth of seniors had been prescribed inappropriate combinations of drugs with a wide range of adverse reactions.
     In addition to the problem of side effects, many prescription drugs are expensive for seniors on fixed incomes. Homeopathy offers a holistic solution to a senior's health problems, with remedies that are gentle, safe, and inexpensive
     As we age, our metabolism slows and our body functions alter. While many seniors are robust and vibrant, just as many find their energy reduced, and they often have more trouble recovering from an injury or illness. Sleep difficulties are common, especially if physical limitations prevent participation in daily exercise. In later years, mental confusion can be a problem, ranging from slight memory loss and disorientation to full blown senility. Loneliness and despair can be overwhelming at a gradual or sudden loss of independence, health, friends, or loved ones. Studies have repeatedly shown that the best preventive course of action for all of us—including elders—is to stay physically and mentally active, remain involved in a community of family and friends, and maintain a moderate diet and life style.

Homeopathy can help
For seniors who do become ill, homeopathy can help. Since homeopathy is based on matching a remedy to the specific physical, mental, and emotional symptoms of the individual, there is not just one remedy for certain specific ailments of seniors. The remedy choices match the person's complaint as well as their more general state and symptoms.
     Larry was a pleasant 68-year-old fellow with bright eyes and a quick wit, who retired from his job as an engineer 3 years ago. He and his wife were birdwatchers, and he was an avid reader of history and nature books. During our first visit in June 1995 he told me the following:
     "My regular doctor says I am fine. But I know there is something wrong. I had pneumonia last July, and even though I got over it, things just haven't been the same since then.
     "The pneumonia started as a cold that got worse and worse. I started to cough and run a fever. It just wouldn't go away. After another week or two, I was aching everywhere and had pain in my chest. That's when my wife started to worry! She bundled me off to the hospital and they said I had pneumonia. I was on antibiotics for a while, and I gradually got over it. It was late autumn before the cough went away.
     "Even though I definitely don't have pneumonia any more, I get tired much more easily now. I often find myself needing to sit down and rest, or even to lean on something. I sleep longer, and wake up groggy. That never used to happen, and I just refuse to accept the idea that this is normal for me now that I am over 65!
     "My tonsils are larger now, and when I get a cold, which is more often than it used to be, they swell up a lot. My chest gets tight when I get a cold, and then my lungs get this funny smoky feeling inside them. All this has changed the way I think about things. I don't want to plan to do anything and I don't look forward to the future like I used to. I wonder if this is the beginning of a long slide into poor health, and that seems a terrible way to spend my retirement. It is awful to think that I might not get better, that I could be this way till the end of my life."

Bouncing back to the future
Larry's sentiments echo thoughts that often go through the minds of older people who have experienced a loss of vigor after an illness. The possibility that they might not bounce back and that his might be the new status quo can be discouraging, darkening the view of their future.
     I repertorized the case using MacRepertory software. The symptoms I chose and the results of the repertorization appear in the following chart.

     Based on this combination of symptoms, he was given the remedy Baryta carbonica in a 6C potency, to be taken twice daily for the next 6 weeks. Within a week, he noticed a change in his level of energy, with less fatigue and more enthusiasm about his life, and within three months, he reported that he was back to his old self again!

A remedy for both ends of life
Baryta carbonica, made from mineral carbonate of barium, is a remedy known for its use during both infancy and old age. It is helpful for the elderly where there is fatigue, swollen glands, respiratory difficulty, and mental weakness. As in Larry's case, it is a good remedy to consider in conditions where an older person has not been able to recover from an illness and becomes discouraged about health problems. It covers a range of mental symptoms from confusion and loss of confidence to outright senility, particularly in seniors who seem to have reverted to behaving like children in their old age. People who need this remedy are often affected adversely by cold, wet weather, feeling rheumatic joint pains or catching colds easily with gradually swelling tonsils. There is often persistent accumulation of mucus in the nose and throat. Baryta carbonica is also applicable for weakness of digestion, another common problem for the elderly, with stomach pain, bloating, and a feeling of weakness in the stomach after eating, with persistent constipation.

A gentle low potency approach
In this case a homeopathic remedy in low potency (6C) was used with daily repetition. This gradual, gentle approach is useful for the elderly. The risk of aggravation is very low, which is especially important for people in a weakened state. Also, many seniors are taking prescription medications; and while it is quite unlikely that a homeopathic remedy will interfere with the action of a conventional prescription drug, the reverse is sometimes not true, and a daily dose of the homeopathic remedy allows it to work persistently along side the other medications.
     Just as a reminder, people should never abruptly stop taking prescription medications in anticipation that a homeopathic remedy will resolve the troubling symptoms. In a daily dosage, homeopathic remedies can continue to act while conventional medications are being taken, and as the symptoms improve, the senior should work with the physician who prescribed the medications to reduce and possibly eliminate them in a careful, supervised fashion. Using this approach, the elderly can resolve their health problems while also eliminating the expense and risk of unnecessary prescription drugs—and that is a prescription for a healthier retirement!

About the author:
Karen Allen, RC, RSHom(NA), CCH, is a registered counselor and homeopath in Seattle, Washington, specializing in infertility and reproductive system complaints. She is an adjunct faculty member in the homeopathic department at Bastyr University, and serves as president of the Council for Homeopathic Certification.