Some seniors may treat a doctor’s visit as a social occasion, making appointments not because anything is wrong, but because they’re lonely, and a medical professional will provide attention, if only for a short while.
A new University of Michigan poll found that more than a fourth of senior respondents have just a single social contact or less per week with someone outside their home. It’s easy to see how a doctor’s visit would fulfill a longing for engagement.
On the other hand, many seniors who know they ought to visit their doctor scrupulously avoid doing so. If they have a chronic condition, the visit may be essential. Yet they put it off with the slimmest of excuses.
Why Seniors Avoid the Doctor
A senior may lack the ability to hear what the doctor wants to tell them, or worry that the physician will say they’re no longer fit to drive or to live alone. This fear of loss of independence is enough for them to keep postponing a medical visit.
A Health Information National Trends Study found people will avoid seeking medical care, even when they suspect it may be necessary, for four basic reasons:
- Dislike of doctors or medical institutions: “I don’t trust them” or concern that the doctor will make a mistake: “They might give me the wrong diagnosis.”
- Lack of resources: no transportation, language barrier, cost.
- Low perceived need: “Don’t fix what isn’t broken,” and “It will get better with time.”
- Personality: “I’m just lazy” and “I tend to procrastinate.”
Four Compelling Reasons for An Annual Physical
So if a senior is basically healthy yet resistant to seeing the doctor, is a medical exam still a good idea? Absolutely. Regular medical check-ups should be the cornerstone of senior health and wellness. Here’s why:
- Early detection. From breast cancer to high blood pressure to kidney disease, your doctor can catch potential health issues before they become clinical. By the time a “silent symptom” disease is apparent to you, it will be much further along and harder to successfully treat. A routine health and wellness exam can also help detect early memory impairment in someone who does not yet exhibit signs of cognitive decline.
- Regular screenings. One of the ways your doctor can detect a serious problem is via screenings you can’t do on your own, such as:
- Prostate exam
- Blood tests for high cholesterol
- Vaccines. The CDC recommends seniors get vaccinated against pneumonia, shingles, and flu annually. You may also need a booster shot for tetanus or diphtheria.
- Questions answered. Do you want to make some changes to your diet, or try a health supplement? Your doctor’s appointment is the ideal time to ask for and receive trusted guidance.
How to Prepare for Your Doctor’s Appointment
The following six steps will help you get the most out of your doctor’s visit:
- Make a List and Check It Twice. Doctor’s appointments are becoming shorter all the time, and it’s easy to get distracted from what you want to ask, by questions the doctor may be asking you. Ahead of your appointment, make a list of your questions and concerns, as well as all medications you’re taking (prescription and over the counter, as well as supplements).Although this information ought to be in your patient file, it will be much more helpful to have it in front of you when meeting with your doctor. Organize the list so the most important concerns are at the top.
- Be Focused. Many older people want to give their doctor the complete “backstory” on a condition, which will cut into precious appointment time. Though it may be frustrating to omit what you feel is important detail, getting to the point quickly will help your doctor serve you best.
- Be Honest. Seniors often don’t tell their doctor about a fall, or if they’re starting to have memory problems or urinary incontinence. It’s understandable that discussing sensitive topics can be difficult. However, the more you share with your doctor, the more helpful he or she can be in determining how to help you.
- Bring Backup. It’s easy to miss information when there’s a lot to take in, or if you have difficulty hearing what is being said. And medical jargon can be confusing. If possible, bring a friend or family member with you to the appointment to help you remember what you want to ask, and to jot down notes about the doctor’s advice.
- Ask for an Interpreter. If English isn’t your primary language and you do not have anyone who can accompany you and translate what the doctor says, ask the medical staff to provide an interpreter. These days, many medical offices have at least one staff member who is bilingual in English and Spanish.
- Share Your Medical History with a New Doctor. When you see a physician for the first time, highlight past illnesses, medical conditions, operations, medications, etc., so the doctor has an accurate snapshot of your health. While all this information will also be contained in your written medical history, a patient summary will be very useful at the initial meeting.
Senior Health and Wellness in Southern California
Here at The Kensington Redondo Beach, a luxurious full service assisted living and memory care community located just steps from the Pacific Ocean, health and wellness is a priority. Our residents enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities in our beautiful year-round weather, and we make every effort to ensure they receive the health care they need to participate to the fullest.
In addition to a medical director on call 24/7, we provide two full-time registered nurses who coordinate all aspects of each resident’s nursing and medical care. Licensed nurses remain onsite 24 hours a day and administer medication as needed.
We strive to help our residents maintain or regain their optimal level of independence as quickly and conveniently as possible. Toward this end, Kensington senior wellness programs include physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, and fitness programs tailored to each participant’s needs and ability.
We invite you to stop by and visit us soon — you’ll see and feel The Kensington Redondo Beach difference firsthand!