Most of us associate annual wellness visits with lab tests and physical examinations. But, as the name suggests, they're less about that and more about your whole person.
Annual wellness visits after the age of 65 are even more crucial. On the one hand, you can get a free annual wellness visit within 12 months of signing up for Medicare. But these visits are more than just a nice perk. Think of an annual wellness visit as quality time with a healthcare professional. Often, they can pinpoint risky behaviors that may seem trivial to you but can affect your health. The most important part of the annual wellness visit is a discussion of any chronic conditions you may have and what to do about them in the upcoming year. The visit also screens for common health risks in older adults, such as fall risks or mobility issues.
Are you still confused about the purpose of a Medicare Annual Wellness Visit (AWV)? Here's what you need to know as you prepare for your visit:
Wellness checkups are not the same as "physicals."
Unlike a physical exam, a wellness visit focuses on preventing diseases and disabilities. It's less about blood tests or listening to your lungs and more about preparing for a fulfilling life. You can expect questions about your current health status and history. Since blood work and physical exams are not part of the visit, most providers offer video visits. Talk to your provider about your options and preferences.
AWVs are free for all Medicare patients.
You can enroll in Medicare three months before you turn 65. Within 12 months of enrollment and annually after that, you are eligible for a free AWV if you haven't had a "Welcome to Medicare" exam or an AWV in the past year. There are no deductibles or co-payments for such a visit.
Your provider is not the only one asking questions
There's no such thing as a silly question at the doctor's office. Your AWV is all about you and what you can do to stay healthy. Be honest about your concerns, including conditions that run in your family. That's how you can get personalized advice.
As you get older, your body may react differently to your medications. Bring a list of your medications to your appointment, and speak up if they make you dizzy or drowsy.
Disease screenings and vaccines
After age 65, men and women may need to be screened for colon, prostate, and breast cancer. Your doctor will discuss these with you and may refer you for special testing. After age 65, you should also consider being tested for osteoporosis and keep up with your vaccines. The CDC recommends specific vaccines for people 65 and older. Talk to your physician or advanced practice provider about which vaccines suit your age. All adults, regardless of age, should get the new COVID-19 bivalent booster and the Td or Tdap vaccine to prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. An annual flu shot is also recommended for all adults.
Contrary to popular belief, older adults can prevent many common health issues by making an annual trip to the doctor's office as a part of their golden years routine. Call 979-774-2121 or visit https://stjoseph.stlukeshealth.org/find-a-doctor/ to schedule your annual wellness visit.
Annual Wellness Visit (alz.org)
Annual Wellness Visit Coverage (medicare.gov)
Medicare Wellness Visits - ICN MLN6775421 February 2021 (cms.gov)