13 May 2020
Keeping Older Americans Healthier, Longer | myNEXUS
Regular Senior Wellness Checkups
For many older Americans, health and wellness check-ups are limited to the times when they are experiencing issues or discomfort; but there may be a better way to ensure seniors’ health while avoiding too many visits to the doctor. Preventive care for seniors who are both independent and homebound is the easiest and safest way to ensure that aging Americans remain healthier, mobile, and independent for much longer, and may help to reduce or limit trips to the doctor for potentially problematic ailments. Catching an issue early may help to preserve seniors’ routines and quality of life well into their golden years.
Health sources such as the FDA recommend routine wellness checks to keep that youthful energy glowing. These include similar parts to an examination that one would expect through all walks of life (with a few adjustments).
- A well–check can help keep seniors up to date with preventive medicine and asses any changes to their well-being. We’ve previously published a blog outlining the CDC’s recommendations for regular vaccinations including the yearly flu shot and preventive care for caretakers. Providers will do a quick mental health assessment to determine if seniors are dealing with any kind of depressive attitude or loneliness, as well as helping them to manage and adjust to the changes in their mind, body, and lifestyle.
- Regular assessments for heart disease and high cholesterol can help prevent serious acute conditions such as a heart attack or stroke as patients age. By monitoring changes in blood pressure, doctors can identify and treat early warning signs rather than having to intervene as symptoms become more prevalent.
- Colorectal screening for cancer (colonoscopies) are an important and surefire way to ensure that older Americans are not at risk for serious disease and can help to remove polyps (usually benign tumors growing inside the intestine) before they become cancerous. It is recommended to begin getting regular colonoscopies from ages 50-75 (unless told otherwise). To screen patients for whom a colonoscopy is not appropriate, there are alternative tests available that they should discuss with their doctors.
- Especially for seniors, regular screenings for diabetes (every 3 years unless told otherwise), osteoporosis, skin lesions and moles, and regular dental exams are vital for maintaining optimal health. Keeping on top of these exams will help to ensure that no underlying conditions may exacerbate conditions which develop as they age.
- Some tests are more specific to women, for example, pelvic exams and pap smears (ages 21-65 unless told otherwise) as well as mammograms (ages 50-75 unless told otherwise) should be conducted regularly even as they age. After menopause, women may be more at risk for osteoporosis due to a loss of bone density; therefore, it is a vital part of their regular wellness exams, and any issues are caught early so they can be treated with preventive medicine.
- For men, regular prostate exams as well as checks for abnormal aortic aneurysms may help to catch prostate cancer early (more common in older men) as well as potential complications from heart disease.
National Resources for Older Americans
As older Americans age, it is important to identify national resources for helping to maintain independence and quality of life. For those who are looking for ways to stay active and have healthy regular meals, there are lots of organizations which specialize in senior assistive services such as:
- Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) provides medical and social services to elderly Americans living in their own homes.
- Meals on Wheels is a volunteer service to help get healthy food and regular meals to seniors as well as to bring in a friendly face to help combat loneliness.
- Veterans Affairs (VA)
- The National Council on Aging (NCOA) helps to promote financial security and healthy living practices for aging adults and has great resources on public policies in place to help seniors live their best lives.
- The AARP helps to “to empower people to choose how they live as they age” by keeping members sharp, providing tools and resources for caregivers, as well as offering resources for financial security and entertainment for seniors.
How to Tackle Healthy Aging
There are so many great ways that older Americans can work with their families or caregivers to take charge of their health and wellness, and to ensure that they are able to enjoy their golden years longer and more fully. Taking care to get regular examinations and preventive care, accessing resources available to them, and making sure that they have a plan to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle are all ways to plan for a bright and healthy future.
- Resources for home maintenance such as the National Directory of Home Modification and Repair Resources can help maintain home safety.
- The NIA has great programs to keep seniors active such as Go4Life which can help keep exercise and activity into seniors’ lifestyles.
- Knowing how to manage lifestyle changes (which primary care physicians can help seniors manage) will help optimize the changes seniors will make as they continue to age including eating, managing medications, condition management, social determinants of health, and health screenings
- It is vital for seniors to stay active and not become sedentary if possible, as well as keeping up with social engagement for mental health and well-being.
- Establishing security around fall risks, malnutrition, and finances means that older Americans maintain wellness as a whole person and continue to live lives they can enjoy with their families as they age.
If you or someone you love is starting to learn how to handle the aging process, it is most important that you have an open conversation with their provider to make sure that everyone is informed about the state of their health as well as establishing a plan for the future as things change. Check out the resources set up nationally and be sure to take advantage of those services which can help maintain a good quality of life for seniors. If you want, you can print out this article and take it with you to help facilitate a whole-person wellness plan with your doctors. Don’t be afraid to think ahead to home health solutions as mobility and cognition decline.