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Your health, your year: What to consider if you’re 65 or older

| Healthy You | Aging Well | Wellness

Older woman sits at kitchen table, looking at laptop screen and paper calendar

Make a plan to care for your health so you can feel your best doing everything else.

Are you hoping to take a flight, start a road trip or go on a cruise this year? Is there a family wedding, reunion or other special occasion coming up in a few months?

Consider seeing your doctor before you go. Getting healthcare check-ups on your calendar sooner than later can give you peace of mind all year.

"My biggest advice to seniors is to plan ahead. Do not assume that there will always be immediate access to care," says Thomas Caton, MD, a geriatric provider at PeaceHealth in Florence, Oregon.

If you're planning to move to a new city — especially a smaller one, he recommends doing your homework ahead of time. Consider what the medical community is like when you arrive. How many primary care providers (PCPs) are there?  Is there a waiting list?  Do you have your medical records or can you get copies? There can sometimes be a wait to get into the practice of a new PCP.  Call before your planned move to see if you need to be added to a waiting list, how long that waiting list might be, and if you have enough supply of your medications to last. See if your new community offers drop-in clinics that can provide care when you need it. 

Whether you have a PCP or not, here are a few things consider if you're 65 or older and you're planning for future care.

Key health checks

Following are types of care you might want or need:

  • An annual physical. This is a chance to see how well you’re feeling and whether you would benefit from preventive care. Here are three reasons to see your PCP once a year
  • Medication review. If you take more than a few medications, you might review the list with your PCP to see if you still need them all. Dr. Caton adds, "Some medications, especially newer medications, require additional paperwork and time to process with the insurance company so that they will cover the product.  When in doubt, assume there could be a slight delay and plan for this."
  • An eye exam. Has it been a while since your last vision check? Have you noticed any changes? Experts recommend an eye exam once a year. Depending on your age or health, you might need them more often. Keep in mind that your eyes can also give clues about other aspects of your health.
  • Hearing/hearing aid check. Like eyesight, hearing is critical to your well-being. Do you need a hearing aid? If you already have hearing aids, are they working well? 
  • Screenings for serious conditions. Are you due for a colonoscopy? How about a mammogram? Ask your provider what, if any, screenings you should consider soon. Once you know, you can make time to put them on your calendar. Read more about screenings that might be right for you.
  • Immunizations. Shots aren’t only to protect you, but also to protect the health of others — especially those who are more vulnerable than you. Your PCP can recommend the vaccination(s) that are right for you.
  • Specialty care. Are there non-urgent healthcare services you’ve been exploring? Joint replacement? Cataract removal?  Weight loss surgery? Consider setting up a time to talk about the pros, cons and next steps of these types of care.
  • Foot check. If you have diabetes, plan to have your feet checked at least once a year. It’s a good way to spot and correct potential diabetes-related concerns early. Read more about foot care.
  • Supportive shoes and/or orthotic inserts. Inserts or quality shoes can keep you steady and balanced. That can help you avoid trips, falls and injuries. Good footwear can also prevent or ease pain in your joints. If your shoes or inserts are worn out, or if they’re more than a few years old, consider replacing them. 
  • Pacemaker or other device inspection. If you have a pacemaker or other implantable device, ask your specialist whether or how often you should have it checked.
  • Chronic condition support. Do you have one or more chronic conditions? You might want to look into signing up for a care management program. PeaceHealth’s Flourish offers one-on-one support to help you learn ways to feel your best.
  • Advance care directive. While an advance care directive isn’t an exam or a check-up, it is an important part of how you want to receive care. You can create or update your advance care directive on your own. But do plan to share a copy with your PCP to keep on file if questions come up.

Insurance benefits

Planning for health care isn’t just about your doctor visits. It’s also important to know your options for how to pay for services. Here are a few ways to make the most of Medicare benefits:

  • Learn about Medicare member enrollment options and deadlines. Whether you’re new to Medicare or if you’ve been enrolled for a while, it’s good to review what’s available/changed. 
  • Research and choose the Medicare plan that best fits your healthcare needs. 
  • See if your prescriptions are covered and whether you might need additional coverage (Medicare Part D).
  • If this is your first year with Medicare, schedule a "Welcome to Medicare" preventive visit. If you’re an existing member, you can set up a wellness visit once a year. Learn more about annual wellness visits.
  • Medicare members also can enroll in a clinically integrated network, such as Cascadia Community Care Alliance. Enrolling in networks like Cascadia CCA gives you access to a care manager to help you coordinate complex needs and situations.

Note: If costs are a concern, PeaceHealth offers financial assistance.

Planning for health care takes a little time and effort. But thinking ahead and preparing can help you more fully enjoy all the other plans you’ve made in the days and weeks ahead.

portrait of Thomas A. Caton MD

Thomas A. Caton MD

Family Medicine
Geriatric Internal Medicine
Thomas Caton, MD, earned his medical degree from American University of the Caribbean, Saint Martin. He completed Tulane University’s Family Medicine Residency Program at Baton Rouge General Hospital and a geriatric medicine fellowship at Texas A&M University at Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital. He enjoys spending time with family, playing the piano, golfing, fishing and growing hot chili peppers.