As you age, it becomes increasingly critical to stay on top of your health. That’s why, in addition to getting regular physicals and screenings, every senior should take the time to schedule an annual wellness visit with their primary care provider.
Medicare covers this yearly appointment to give you the opportunity to collaborate with your doctor on a preventive care plan for the coming year. This isn’t the same thing as a head-to-toe physical exam, but the annual wellness visit is an important part of senior health care, Portland doctors agree.
“Until recently, Medicare concentrated on treating beneficiaries’ conditions and diseases when they were already affected rather than emphasizing preventive care to keep people healthy in the first place,” says Families USA. The annual wellness visit marks “a major milestone in Medicare’s efforts to keep beneficiaries healthy, rather than just paying for treatment when they are sick.”
Here’s what you can expect during your visit:
Health risk assessment. To provide your doctor with a comprehensive picture of your health, you’ll complete a risk assessment that examines your current health status and risk of injury as well as any risky behaviors or urgent health needs. Based on the assessment, your doctor will offer health advice and referrals for services or programs to help you reduce any identified risk factors. Recommendations might include:
- Physical activity
- Weight loss
- Smoking cessation
- Improved nutrition
- Fall prevention
Medical and family history. As people’s health changes, their medical and family histories evolve. That’s why it’s important to keep them up to date. During your annual wellness visit, your doctor will update your history, including a list of all your current care providers and durable medical equipment suppliers as well as any medications, vitamins and dietary supplements you take.
Screening checklist. To ensure you get the preventive care you need, your doctor will also recommend a screening schedule for the next 5 to 10 years. Recommended screenings will be based on your age, screening history, individual health status and what Medicare-covered preventive services you’re eligible for.
Health indicators. Track important health indicators, your doctor will check your height, weight, blood pressure, and body mass index. These may help shape your preventive care plan.
Impairment screening. Your annual wellness visit also serves as an opportunity for your doctor to check for other conditions, such as physical or cognitive impairment. Although it may not involve a separate test, your doctor will check for:
- Mental health conditions (such as depression)
- Cognitive impairment (such as Alzheimer’s or dementia)
- Functionality (such as the ability to bathe and dress)
To ensure the best possible senior health care, Portland patients should aim to get the most possible mileage from their annual wellness visit.
“Medicare’s wellness visit might seem like a small thing, but it will help you take control of your health care,” says Families USA. “If you take full advantage of wellness visits, coupled with preventive care, it may mean the difference between sickness and health, and in some cases, between life and death.”