OBJECTIONS: To evaluate the cost and proportion of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) in the total healthcare costs among the elderly in the last 6 months of life. METHODS: The care-giving families of 301 persons older than 65 years, who died between July 1st and December 31st of 2001, and were also registered in Self-Employed Health Insurance Programs in Seoul, were interviewed. RESULTS: The cost of CAM was 1.09 million Won, which as a proportion of the total healthcare cost was 38.1%. The elderly aged between 65 and 69 year-old, male, living with their spouse, Buddhist and having cancers had higher CAM costs in an ANOVA and simple regression analysis. After controlling of various factors, age was the only significant factor associated with the cost of CAM. The elderly above 80 years old, female, bereaved and Buddhist had higher proportional CAM costs, and the elderly having cancers or cardiovascular diseases had lower proportional CAM costs in an ANOVA and simple regression analysis. After adjusting for various factors, the elderly above 85 years old, female and Buddhist had higher proportional CAM costs, and the elderly having cancers had lower proportional CAM costs. CONCLUSION: The very old and Buddhist, and/or the ill with no clear diagnosis, may depend more on CAM. Further research will be needed on the meaning and impact of CAM and their costs to public health and the total healthcare system.