Your Annual Wellness Visit
Your annual wellness visit is the ideal time to check in with your healthcare provider about the best ways to take care of your health. As you age, you may need some new tests. Others may no longer be needed (but still could be wise to do.) This is just one topic on your list to discuss when you meet with your provider. Here’s how to make sure you are prepared when you arrive at the office.
Write down your questions in advance
Bring the list with you. This makes sure that you don’t forget to mention something important.
Bring a digital recorder
Ask your healthcare provider if it’s OK to record the visit. It can be helpful to go back and listen again to your provider’s advice when you have time to think more clearly.
Bring someone with you
You can ask a loved one to sit in on the visit with you. Your friend or relative can serve as an advocate. Your friend of family member may have questions or observations that can help you get the best medical care.
Bring your health records
Bring copies of your personal health records. This is important if this is your first visit or if it’s been a while since you saw this healthcare provider. Let your provider know about any other healthcare providers you see. You might also want to bring information about the health of your close family members. Certain diseases and conditions run in families. For example, if a brother, sister, parent, or adult child has been diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, your provider may want to add that information to your file.
Bring a list of your medicines and supplements
Let your healthcare provider know what medicines you take each day. Make sure to include:
If it’s too much for you to write down, bring them all in a bag to show the provider.
Talk about any changes you’re experiencing
Mention any new sensations, signs, or symptoms that you’ve been having. You should also bring up any significant changes in your life, such as the death of a loved one, retirement, or a change in lifestyle. These might have an impact on your health. Even difficult topics can and should be discussed with your healthcare provider. This includes changes in bathroom habits, sex, feelings of sadness, depression, or thoughts of suicide.
Ask about your numbers
This is a good time to check in on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, weight, body mass index (BMI), heart rate, and any other numbers that your provider has been watching. Ask what you need to do to keep these measurements in healthy ranges.
Ask about screenings
Certain health screenings, such as those for the prostate, breast, bones, and colon, are advised for older adults. If your provider doesn’t mention them, ask if you should be screened during this visit or in the next few years.
Get needed vaccines
You should be vaccinated against Covid-19, the flu, whooping cough (pertussis), and tetanus. The shingles and pneumonia vaccines may also be on your health promotion and disease prevention list. Ask your healthcare provider about them.
Discuss any changes in your abilities
Sometimes it’s hard to face the changes that age brings. But bringing them up early may help your provider treat them more effectively. If you’re having problems with daily activities for any reason, such as pain in your joints, memory problems, or trouble seeing clearly, let your provider know.
Here are other tips:
Ask if you need to see a specialist. People who live with long-term (chronic) diseases, such as diabetes, may need to see specialists in addition to their regular healthcare provider. If your provider doesn’t mention this, you should ask.
Be honest about what you can do. Your provider may have some advice for you about how to improve your health. Be honest about what will work for you. Let your provider know if your living arrangements, budget, or transportation arrangements could interfere with the plan. That way, together you can come up with the best strategy for your health.
Ask for advice. Most people want to be as healthy and happy as they can be. Ask your provider for help if you are trying to quit smoking, lose weight, eat better, or cope with sadness that just won’t go away.
Discuss advanced care choices. It’s difficult to think about a time in the future when you may not be able to make healthcare decisions for yourself. But the reality is that many people go through that experience. Talk with your provider about this issue now, while you are healthy. Your provider can advise you about how to let your loved ones know what care you would want if you're ever unable to speak for yourself. You may want to appoint a friend or relative of your choice as your durable power of attorney for healthcare to speak for you.