Whatever your age, part of you dreads the thought of going for a medical check-up, let alone on a regular schedule. However, as we age, these visits to the doctor become more and more important – especially when our overall well-being changes over time. You might think that your visits to the doctor should be kept to a minimum, mainly whenever you’re feeling ill, but there are plenty of benefits to getting a check-up every year, more so for senior citizens.
Isn’t It A Bit Too Late for Seniors?
Far from it. As we age, we become more prone to various health complications, sometimes without even being aware of it. Additionally, a health check-up for you or your loved one is unique, and tailored based on your age, physical health, family history, and many other factors. It may also change based on concerns you may have or if you’re currently feeling unwell at the time of your visit. Regardless of your age, doctors will be able to run a check-up that’s suited to your needs and have you primed for the right prescriptions or treatment plan.
A check-up may involve any number of additional tests beyond a physical check, depending on you or your loved one’s current health outlook. All of these are essential in preparing you for the necessary medications or treatments you may need to get better or improve your overall health.
The Importance of a Health Check-up for Seniors
We’re advocates of early health screenings as a preventive healthcare measure. Not only does it help with detecting early warning signs of a possible health complication, but it also gives you a great deal of peace of mind once you get the results. It might not be good to know if you’re positive for a condition, but it’s still better than not knowing at all. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, you can be assured that your condition will be treated from start to finish.
Early screenings can save lives, after all, especially when it might be a severe condition that only worsens as time passes. Many chronic illnesses that are treated early will usually lead to far better health outcomes than if it was left untreated. In many cases, when a chronic condition is detected late and has progressed significantly, it can be difficult to discuss or consider effective treatment plans in detail, especially when time may not be on your side.
Learn About Risk Factors
Your doctor does more than just treat your illnesses; they also hold records of your overall health, including past illnesses and family medical history. As such, a medical check-up will be important for your doctor to identify possible risk factors for particular health complications, and subsequently test for it. This goes hand in hand with early screenings, as it means they’ll be able to use your health history to look for particular signs and symptoms if you may be at risk of certain health conditions.
Stay Updated With Healthcare Needs
Healthcare is a constantly changing field, especially as new medical breakthroughs are achieved. It becomes important to stay up to date with new changes as your healthcare needs change, especially if there may be new medications or treatments that deliver better results with minimal difficulty. It may also be to review the medications you or your loved ones are currently taking, and whether your current prescriptions may need changing or otherwise.
This also includes medical tests and vaccinations, the latter being particularly important to protect you and your loved ones from harmful bacteria or viruses, such as what we saw with COVID-19. Having information on these breakthroughs can be of great value to boosting one’s morale, as it gives hope that even currently incurable conditions may one day be cured through science and technology.
Follow-Up Sessions for Long-Term Care
Follow-up care is important if you or your loved ones have a health condition that requires active treatment. It ensures that you or your loved one are being treated properly and are not experiencing any side effects throughout treatment. Your doctor will be making sure that your condition is under control and that any changes you or your loved one experiences will be noted and the treatment plan adjusted accordingly.
Have Questions Answered
Even if you might not be feeling under the weather, a check-up can still be a good way to have any lingering doubts or concerns answered by a licensed medical professional. Maybe you’d like to know more about your current health and how you can keep on improving it, or maybe you’re worried about a particular condition after you’ve heard someone you know is dealing with it. You may also have read something online and you’re not sure if the information is genuine or otherwise.
Every visit you make to your doctor can be a useful learning experience. It helps that you prepare a checklist of questions you’d like to ask during the check-up. You could also get the input of your loved ones on topics of interest that are worth asking about. It helps to be able to have answers to things you’d like to know more of, as well as dispel any prejudices or misbeliefs regarding a particular condition or treatment.
Build Trust With Your Doctor
Having a strong bond of trust with your doctor isn’t just about being friends with them. It means it’ll be easier to talk with them about personal topics related to your health and everything else in between. It may make you feel more at ease to be able to share these things while also taking the advice of your doctor on how to improve your overall health. The more your doctor knows about you, the better advice they can impart – and the better care they can provide to ensure you live a good life for the rest of your years.
Prevention is better than cure, and with how expensive treatments can get, having regular check-ups as your first line of defense ensures you’ll save a lot of money in the long run. You only need to pay for your regular check-ups and the few prescriptions you need to maintain your health; no need to worry about costly therapies or surgeries!
Helps You Feel Good About Your Health
It might seem a little odd to say this, but it’s hard not to deny the relief you will feel when your doctor gives the all-clear where your health is concerned. The relief comes from knowing that you’re still doing alright for yourself when you may be initially worried about your current health outlook. After all, only you know how you really feel with regard to your health, and that can also help with making you feel healthy. The positive feedback loop can still do a great deal of good even when you’re older.
Preparing for a Check-up
Even when you know why a check-up is beneficial for you and your loved ones, going for one can still feel rather daunting. Here are some useful tips to consider for the entire process of going for a medical check-up.
Before the Screening
Make sure you get at least six hours of sleep the day before the screening, as a lack of sleep can cause various fluctuations in test results. This can make it difficult for your doctor to make a proper diagnosis. You should also fast for at least 8 to 10 hours, and avoid taking any alcohol as well as refrain from smoking; make sure to stay hydrated with water.
If you have existing health conditions, you should bring your lab results or any relevant medical reports along for your doctor to review if they haven’t seen them already. The same applies to medications your loved one is currently on if given by another doctor or from a previous hospital stay. You may also need to delay your medications and supplements unless your doctor says it’s right to take them.
If you may have noticed changes in your loved one’s well-being, it wouldn’t hurt to bring it up with the doctor as well. It might just be a good thing if it turns out it’s an early sign of an underlying health complication, which can then be promptly treated.
Since you’ll be accompanying your loved one to appointments, it’s a good idea to think about what to ask the doctor about caring for your loved one. You can talk about it with your loved one and have a checklist readied beforehand so that you can refer to it and ask the doctor whatever you need to know. Make sure you have space to write down what the doctor tells you.
Getting to the Check-up Location
Will you be driving your loved one to the check-up location, or will you both be taking public transportation? It may be of great value to plan your route ahead of time, especially if you may need to pass through areas with high traffic. You’ll need to account for the time of day, how bad rush hour might be (if you have to leave within that time frame), and other factors that may affect your estimated time of arrival.
There’s also a matter of accessibility. Being able to drive your loved one does make things easier, as you have more control over how to help your loved one exit the vehicle and get from point A to B. With public transportation, you’ll need to account for the type of public transportation you’ll be using.
For example, buses have raised steps and if your loved one has mobility issues, it can be difficult – if not impossible – to board. Taxis and e-hailing drivers are another option, but depending on the location and distance, the fare can be expensive. Accessibility can be a bit of a difficulty as well if it’s just you and your loved one.
It may be a good idea to enlist the help of another family member, if possible, so as to help with carrying important items or getting your loved one around. Otherwise, you could always hire a medical escort to help you out.
During the Check-up
Once it’s your loved one’s turn to see the doctor, they’ll usually begin by asking a few questions to assess your loved one’s current state of health, including family history, prior use of cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs, and how your loved one feels in recent days/weeks. This is usually the best time to bring up the questions you have for your doctor before they start with the check-up. You could ask them later, but it’s a good idea to check with them beforehand, as they may need to see other patients after your loved one.
They’ll then move on to a physical examination, which has them observing your loved one’s physical health and checking for particular signs of a potential health condition at the early (or later) stages. You can expect them to check the following:
- Check your loved one’s heart rate and breathing
- Examine the mouth, nose, and ears
- Take your loved one’s pulse
- Look for lesions or rashes or other physical symptoms on the skin
- Take your loved one’s blood pressure
- Take their height and weight
There may be other tests that they’ll conduct as well, depending on your loved one’s health history and various other factors the doctor deems important.
- Cholesterol screening: High cholesterol can be a risk factor for various complications, such as heart disease. Cholesterol is carried through your blood via proteins; these are called lipoproteins. Ideally, you’ll want more high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) than low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), as the latter is “bad cholesterol”
- Diabetes screening: Your doctor will examine your loved one’s blood sugar levels to determine if they may or may not have diabetes – either prediabetes, type 1, type 2, or even gestational diabetes.
- Faecal occult blood test: The doctor will take a stool sample to look for signs of blood in the stool. This is usually a warning sign of colorectal cancer
- Colonoscopy: This test involves the use of a colonoscope: a long, thin and flexible tube about the width of your finger, which comes with a light and camera on one end. It’s used to examine the length of your colon, enabling doctors to look for abnormalities in your colon
- Mammogram: Primarily done for women, a mammogram is an X-ray for the breasts. This is used to look for signs of abnormalities in the breast, such as early signs of breast cancer
- Pap smear: A Pap (Papanicolaou) smear is a screening procedure that checks if there are abnormalities in a woman’s cervix, the lower portion of the uterus (womb) that opens to the vagina
- Prostate exam: This test is for men, where a doctor looks for any enlargement of the prostate that may signal prostate cancer or some other complication
It may take some time for the results of some of these tests to be determined, so your doctor will notify you and your loved one once they’re ready. They will usually relay some health tips to maintain your loved one’s current health or make adjustments to their treatment or medication routines if it’s needed. It’s a good idea to re-review new questions that might arise from talking with your doctor.
After the Checkup
Once you get home, take some time to review what the doctor said about your loved one. If there are any changes that can be made immediately, those should be prioritised – especially if they can be of great help to maintaining your loved one’s health. Other actions may take time to be implemented, so try not to sweat it too much. Slowly introduce it to your loved one until they get used to the new routine.
- Bethesda Health Group. (2021). How Seniors Should Prepare for Their Annual Checkup. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://bethesdahealth.org/blog/2021/01/26/how-seniors-should-prepare-for-their-annual-checkup/
- BetterHealth Channel. (n.d.). Regular health checks. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/regular-health-checks
- Cleveland Clinic. (2023). Here’s What Happens at a Yearly Check-Up. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-you-need-an-annual-physical-and-what-to-expect/
- Eure, M. A. (2023). Yearly Checkups for Seniors. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://www.verywellhealth.com/your-annual-checkup-2966782
- FamilyDoctor.org. (2021). Preventive Care for Seniors. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://familydoctor.org/preventative-care-seniors/
- HealthDirect. (2023). Manage your health in your 70s and older. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/manage-your-health-in-your-70s-and-older
- IMU Healthcare. (n.d.). Preparations for Health Screening. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://www.imuhealthcare.com.my/preparations-for-health-screening/
- Krans, B. (2020). Physical Examination. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://www.healthline.com/health/physical-examination
- Mayo Clinic. (2017). Mayo Clinic Q and A: Do healthy older adults need regular health care visits? Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-q-and-a-do-healthy-older-adults-need-regular-health-care-visits/
- Raffles Medical Group. (n.d.). How and What You Need to Prepare Before Your Health Screening. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://www.rafflesmedicalgroup.com/services/health-screening/your-visit/pre-screening-preparations/
- Samuelson, K. (2021). Routine Medical Checkups Have Important Health Benefits. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://news.feinberg.northwestern.edu/2021/06/11/routine-medical-checkups-have-important-health-benefits/
- Stefanacci, R. G. (2022). Physical Examination of the Older Adult. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/geriatrics/approach-to-the-geriatric-patient/physical-examination-of-the-older-adult
- Summit Health. (2022). Understanding Your Well-Being Screening: What Questions Doctors Ask Those Over the Age of 65 and Why. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://www.summithealth.com/health-wellness/understanding-your-well-being-screening-what-questions-doctors-ask-those-over-age
- Watson, S. (2022). Benefits of Annual Checkups in Your 50s and Older. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/annual-checkups-seniors-importance
- Watson, S. (2022). What Checkups Look Like in Your 50s and Up. Retrieved 14th November 2023 from https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/annual-checkups-seniors-expectations
- Zhao, D., Zhou, Z., Shen, C., Zhai, X., Zhao, Y., Cao, D., Deng, Q., Liu, G., & Lim, J. F. Y. (2022). The Effect of Health Check-Ups on Health Among the Elderly in China: Evidence From 2011-2018 Longitudinal Data. International Journal of Public Health, 67, 1604597. https://doi.org/10.3389/ijph.2022.1604597