For people ages 65 and older, preventive medicine is more important than ever. Here’s a list of health care to-do items for older adults.
An annual exam
All patients – including older adults – should see their medical provider each year for an annual exam
Through Medicare, patients are eligible for a one-time initial preventive physical exam. After that initial exam, Medicare covers an annual wellness visit. While this exam generally doesn’t include a hands-on physical exam, it does give providers a chance to review routine health maintenance issues and to screen patients for risks of falls, depression and cognition issues. Providers also discuss advanced directives.
Cancer screenings for men and women 65+
Mammograms are recommended every one to two years for women ages 65 and older.
For women over 65, Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer are generally no longer recommended, though women who smoke or have new sexual partners should continue with the test.
Men in this age group are generally screened for prostate cancer through a blood test for prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, every one to two years.
Both men and women at average risk for colon cancer should continue with screening for the disease by having a colonoscopy every 10 years or the at-home Cologuard stool test every three years. High-risk individuals should be screened with a colonoscopy more frequently.
When to stop screenings
Typically, cancer screenings cease when a patient has a life expectancy of fewer than 10 years. Of course, since none of us know exactly how long we’ll live, it’s important to have a conversation with your primary care provider about how long you should continue screenings. People at higher risk for certain types of cancers may wish to continue with screenings later in life, while others may prefer to stop doing them. A personalized approach is best.
Bone density checks
A bone density test to screen for osteoporosis is recommended for women older than 60, as well as for some men with risk factors, such as smoking or steroid use. If results are normal, the test may be repeated every 10 to 15 years, depending on risk factors. Checks every two to three years are recommended for patients with low or decreasing bone mass.
Immunizations for older adults
Recommendations are similar to those for younger adults, with the addition of a high dose flu shot each year, as well as the pneumonia vaccine, which is recommended once at 65 and boosted every 10 years, or more frequently for people with chronic health conditions.
Medication review for safety and savings
Older adults may take a range of medications, and it’s important to regularly review that list. As a person ages, some medications may not be tolerated, and others could have potential interactions. And it could be that some medications may no longer be necessary.
The power of being proactive at 65+
The old adage holds – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By keeping up with screenings and preventive actions, age can come gracefully and in a healthy way.