As the years pass, seniors become more susceptible to health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Often symptoms of these illnesses aren’t immediately recognizable. As a first line of defense, the annual checkup with your personal physician can identify these conditions when they are more treatable in their earlier stages.

Each Checkup is Unique

The “routine” checkup is anything but routine. Many factors, including age, health challenges, patient medical history, family medical history, medications, ongoing or recent symptoms, stress levels, and cognitive issues, will determine specific areas your physician will want to evaluate.

Your physician may run tests designed to determine if silent but serious conditions are beginning to arise, like:

  • A cholesterol screening called a lipid panel, which evaluates risk for heart disease or stroke
  • A blood count, which can detect infections, anemia, and certain cancers
  • A blood pressure check, which will be more frequently monitored as a person ages, especially if they have a history of blood pressure problems
  • A diabetes screening, particularly for anyone who is obese or has a family history of diabetes

Other tests based on age, sex, and health concerns may include:

  • A colon cancer screening
  • A pelvic exam and Pap smear
  • A mammogram
  • A bone density screening
  • A prostate screening
  • Skin examinations
  • Hearing and vision testing

Checkup Checklist

To make the most of a visit with a physician, a senior should come prepared to be an active participant:

  • Bring a notepad to write down questions, and record your physician’s recommendations and instructions
  • Prepare to ask your most important questions first in case you run out of time during the appointment
  • Bring a friend or relative as a second pair of ears
  • Bring a list of your current medications and dosages, and the dates of your recent vaccinations
  • Know the health history of you and your family
  • Share your diet, exercise program, sleep patterns, and any anxiety or depression you may be experiencing
  • Share recent changes in your health or reactions that may be related to your medications
  • Be able to tell your physician what specialists you have seen
  • Be honest and open about your health concerns even if you feel embarrassed about discussing them
  • Ask the physician questions if you do not understand something he or she has said

When visiting a physician’s office during the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors should do the following:

  • Schedule your appointment by phone or online
  • Wear a mask
  • Maintain social distancing
  • Bring hand sanitizer to use before, during, and after your visit
  • Avoid touching your face

Some physician offices have scheduled appointments to minimize contact between people in the waiting room. Ask your physician office what might be the best time and day to schedule a visit to reduce your risk.

Making Best Use of Your Time with the Doctor

This is a time for you and your physician to catch up and make a plan for your health. Are you caught up on all your screenings? Are your medications working or do they need to be changed? What suggestions does he or she have for changes in your diet or exercise? Review next steps at the end of the appointment.

Don’t assume that your physician, even one in possession of your medical records, knows everything about you. To make the most of the time with any physician requires a sharing of information and questions.

Is Telemedicine an Option?

Telemedicine (sometimes called telehealth) enables health care providers to remotely deliver clinical health services and information via video communications. It is a vital and increasingly used connection between senior adults isolated during the pandemic and health care professionals.

The use of telemedicine is a viable alternative to in-person appointments when monitoring chronic illnesses, medication management, minor infections, sleep problems, and pain, as well as other health concerns. If a patient just has questions for a doctor, it works well. However, some elements of a checkup require physical examinations or lab work that are obviously not possible through a video connection.

Checkup Benefits

Regular checkups can catch and treat health problems before they become more serious and more expensive. Staying up-to-date on one’s health can also be reassuring. Further, your physician can educate you on how to avoid illness or deal with it more effectively. The more your physician knows about your health, the better he or she can manage and coordinate your care.

Finally, checkups build bonds of trust and understanding between the patient and doctor. You’ve talked, shared information, expressed concerns, and dealt with challenges together. In the process, you have learned how to communicate more effectively with each other. That can only improve your checkup experience in the future.

After your annual checkup, be sure to keep visiting our blog for more health and wellness tips throughout the year.