Having a regular medical checkup can help you to prevent or catch illnesses early. As a senior citizen, it is incredibly important that you engage in routine checkups in order to discuss any new or worsening symptoms that you may be experiencing, discuss your current medications with your doctor, take part in preventative screening and speak with your doctor about any lifestyle changes that you may have.
While medical checkups are recommended on a yearly basis in general, your doctor may recommend that you have checkups more frequently, especially if you have a chronic illness or you are considered high risk for one. Prior to your appointment it is important that you prepare by making a list of the topics that you would like to discuss with your doctor, preparing a list of medications and dose amounts and any notations that you may have about the onset of symptoms, when applicable. To learn more on why seniors need regular medical checkups and what to expect during the checkup — review the information that has been provided within the sections below.
Why are Checkups Important?
Having regular medical exams can help you discover problems before they start or catch a medical illness early enough that treatment can be optimized. When you catch a medical illness early, it is much easier to treat it and recover from it. By receiving the right health services, including screenings and treatment, you can take steps towards living a longer and healthier life.
It is recommended that you, if you are a healthy senior citizen, that you visit your doctor at least once a year for a checkup. However, if you have a chronic illness like hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disease, it is important to have a checkup more regularly. Your primary care physician can help you to determine how often you should have a checkup. Of course, if you experience any changes in your abilities to function from one day to the next, are experiencing pain or any other abnormal symptoms, you should visit your doctor sooner rather than later.
Preparing for Your Appointment
Before your appointment, it can be incredibly helpful to write a list of topics that you would like to discuss with your doctor. Ensure that you document any abnormal symptoms that you may be experiencing and always write down your current list of medications, including non-prescription over the counter drugs and herbal supplements, so that you can go over those medications with your doctor. This is an important step of every medical checkup as there are many medications that can cause certain side effects or symptoms as well as to ensure that you are not taking two medications that could impose a drug interaction.
Discussing Current Medication
As mentioned previously, it is incredibly important to discuss your current list of medications, including the doses of each medication and how often you take them. While your doctor likely has notes of the medications that you are actively taking, charts can become outdated. He or she may have a medication listed that you are not currently taking or there could be a medication absent from your patient chart. Make sure to mention any supplements or over-the-counter (OTC) medications you are taking. Even non-prescription drugs can have adverse interactions with prescriptions. Therefore, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor before taking anything new.
Speaking with Your Doctor About New or Worsening Symptoms
Your medical checkup is an ideal time to speak with your doctor about any symptoms that you may be experiencing in addition to any symptoms that you feel are worsening. Even if the health issue may seem small, this discussion is an essential part of a senior’s checkup. Even the smallest of symptoms could be a side effect from a medication or an early sign of illness. Ensure that you talk to your doctor about symptoms such as:
- Memory loss
- Loss of focus
- Loss of appetite
- Pain or stiffness
- Excessive thirst or hunger
- Frequent urination
When describing a symptom to your doctor, it can be very helpful if you can recall when and how the symptom occurred. Did you grow dizzy after standing? Do you feel especially stiff after rest? Do you wake up in the night frequently with the need to go to the bathroom? If you have trouble remembering these types of events, consider writing them down as they occur and presenting your doctor with your notes during your appointment.
Participating in Regular Health Screenings
There are a number of regular screenings that are recommended for senior citizens. These screenings are meant to catch illnesses early including heart disease, diabetes, dementia, arthritis, cancer and more. While many of these screenings are yearly, some may be recommended to you more or less frequently, depending on your circumstances and any current illnesses that you have. It is very important that you engage in each of these screenings as they can not only save your life, but they can improve your overall quality of life.
Discussing Lifestyle Changes
Your doctor will more than likely ask you about your lifestyle and how well you handle self-care tasks like eating, bathing and dressing. You may also be asked about your ease of driving and general routine. This can help your physician get a sense of how well you can perform functions within your day to day life, as well as how well you can navigate around your environment.
You will also likely be encouraged to get specific immunizations, such as your yearly flu shot, in order to ensure that you do not become ill later. Based on your appointment, you may be asked to do additional exams or come back sooner than one year.
Maintaining Your Mental Health
While your physical health is important, you must also pay attention to your mental health. It is important that you review your mental health with your doctor if you have been experiencing any symptoms of a mental illness like:
- Excessive anxiety, worry or fear.
- A sense of hopelessness.
While your primary care physician can make a diagnosis and prescribe medication, it is strongly recommended that you make an appointment with a doctor that specializes in mental health such as a therapist or psychiatrist.