A growing number of medical leaders are calling for “Slow Medicine.” We’ve heard of the Slow Food® movement, originating in Italy—a reaction against fast food and industrialized agriculture, it links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. Along the same lines, the concept of Slow Medicine calls for resisting instant medicalization of health care. In other words, instead of rushing to prescribe drugs or surgeries, caregivers could spend more time listening; include patients’ family and friends for support; and take slow, gentle measures or simply wait and observe before prescribing any action.
Slow Medicine recognizes that urgent health problems will always require quick attention but suggests that many other issues, particularly ones affecting older adults, could benefit from a slower approach. For example, preventive or complementary practices take more time to deliver results but may be less invasive and have fewer (or no) side effects. A gentle treatment that comes to mind is using deep breathing exercises instead of prescriptive drugs to reduce borderline hypertension. Many yoga therapy options might also be considered “slow” in our “quick-fix” culture.
A book that explores this topic is My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing “Slow Medicine,” the Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones by Dennis McCullough, MD (HarperCollins 2008).