Have you scheduled your Medicare wellness visit yet?

Syed picQuratulain Syed, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics
Emory University School of Medicine

Now that we are almost through 2016, I hope you haven’t all lost track of your healthy lifestyle New Year resolutions.  The Medicare annual wellness visit can help you achieve those goals.

If you enrolled in Medicare plan B within the past 12 months, you are eligible for a Welcome to Medicare preventive visit. If you have had Medicare for more than a year, you are eligible for an annual wellness visit every year (at least 11 months after the previous wellness visit).  These visits include a review of your medical history, social history related to your health and education, and counseling about preventive services, including certain screenings, shots, and referrals for services, if needed.

Here is how to prepare for the visit:

  • These visits are free of cost. However, you may have to pay Medicare a deductible or co-insurance if your healthcare provider performs additional tests or services during the same visit and those services aren’t covered under these preventive benefits.
  • Even if you are seeing your current primary care provider, remember to bring any prior medical information, including immunization records, to make sure nothing is overlooked.
  • Gather information about your family’s health history before your appointment. This will help guide discussion on the screenings you should get and the pros and cons of these tests.
  • Bring an updated list of all prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements that you currently take.
  • Do you have advance directives? If you don’t have any, or if you wish to update them, write down your preferences and goals in life in order to discuss them with your healthcare provider.
  • Write down your current level of physical activity and your activity goals. Physical activity can prevent/reduce falls and improve physical strength. Having notes will allow you to have a conversation with your provider about available resources that can help you achieve these goals.
  • Be prepared to discuss any home safety concerns. If your home is in need of rails or grab bars or other modifications to meet your physical needs, you can discuss them at this visit.

Call your healthcare provider today to schedule your annual wellness visit!

Aging and Vision Changes

Alice Pomidor & John Reynolds

Palmer MH high(8) res

Alice Pomidor, MD, MPH, AGSF
Florida State University School of Medicine

Mary Palmer, PhD, RN, FAAN, AGSF
Helen W. and Thomas L. Umphlet Distinguished Professor in Aging
UNC School of Nursing

In our previous blog post about eyesight, we discussed a number of vision problems that people may experience as they get older.  However, many people will experience age-related changes that are not eye diseases.  For example, you may begin to notice changes in your night vision—such as having trouble seeing stars on a clear night, or finding that it’s more difficult to navigate in a dark movie theater. Your eyes may also adjust more slowly to sudden changes in light. Glare and bright lights may trouble you, and that may make it harder to drive at night.

What’s more, working on the computer, reading printed material, or doing close-up projects like sewing, knitting, or woodworking may become more difficult as you age. Often, you can correct these problems easily by using brighter lighting or getting reading glasses.

Vision changes can lower your quality of life and increase your risk for having household accidents, or even car crashes. That’s why getting a yearly check-up with an eye specialist is important.  (See our previous blog post for a handy guide to eye specialists.)

Here are some tips on how to keep vision as sharp as possible for as long as possible:

  • Schedule yearly visits with an eye specialist.
  • Regularly check all medications for any side effects they may have on your vision. Common vision-related side effects include dry and irritated eyes. Antihistamines, allergy medications, antidepressants, tranquilizers, and some high blood pressure medications can cause dry eye.
  • Make sure that items on your floor (such as electrical cords, throw rugs, and knick-knacks) are removed or rearranged so that they are out of the way and you don’t trip over them. Also watch out for pets who can have a way of getting under your feet!
  • Brighten your home and make objects more visible. Here’s how:
    • Use adjustable desk, floor or table lamps close to your working area to shed more light when you’re reading or doing close work.
    • Avoid clear glass light fixtures to reduce glare.
    • Minimize window glare with opaque blinds, curtains or shades.
    • High-quality fluorescent light bulbs make it easier to see colors than conventional incandescent bulbs. What’s more, fluorescent bulbs spread light over large areas without glare, use less energy, and last 10 to 20 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

Just a few steps can make a big difference.  Check out our online resource on vision problems for even more suggestions!

Drs. Pomidor and Palmer are the Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of the American Geriatrics Society’s Public Education Committee.

Social Connectedness: A Key to Healthy Aging

Shah headshotKrupa Shah, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

In an average day, Ms. Alvarez interacts with many people.  In the mornings, she frequently walks to a neighborhood café to have coffee with her best friend.  In the afternoons, she likes to go to the local senior center, where her favorite activities are water aerobics classes and playing bridge.  In the evenings, she often calls her daughter to chat, and likes to send emails and pictures to her grandchildren in college.  Ms. Alvarez’s daily life has a lot of social connectedness.

What is social connectedness?

  • A person’s level and quality of contact with other people

Why is social connectedness important?

  • It is key to healthy aging. Studies have shown that older people who have close connections and relationships not only live longer, but also cope better with health conditions and experience less depression. Life transitions can impact the number and quality of people’s social and community networks. For example, friends and family members may move away, which can have a negative impact on someone’s social network. But a transition such as the birth of a new family member can bring positive changes.

What are some of the life circumstances that can affect one’s social connectedness?

  • Changes in health and ability to walk and get around
  • Changes in work status and income
  • Changes in living arrangements
  • Loss of family and friends, particularly a spouse
  • Commuting challenges. When driving is no longer an option, isolation becomes a significant issue, especially in communities where there is little or no public transportation.

Below are some proactive steps you can take to prevent loneliness and stay connected. Continue reading

Prevent Pneumonia – Get Vaccinated!

Shah headshotKrupa Shah, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

Most people are aware of the flu vaccine. Fewer know that there is another important vaccine available – to prevent pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection and inflammation of the lungs. There is a high rate of sickness, hospitalization, and death associated with pneumonia in older adults who are 65 years old or above.

We’ve reviewed how to prevent pneumonia before, but here is some more information on why older adults should consider getting vaccinated as a way to prevent pneumonia.

Vaccines to prevent pneumonia are called pneumococcal vaccines. These vaccines can prevent or reduce the severity of pneumococcal pneumonia, a very common cause of bacterial pneumonia.

Two types of pneumococcal vaccines are currently available to prevent pneumonia in older adults.

  • Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13 or Prevnar 13®) and
  • Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV23 or Pneumovax®)

Continue reading

Tips on Preventing Pneumonia in Older Adults

Shah headshot

Krupa Shah, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor
University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry





What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation of the lungs.

Why Should Older Adults be Aware of Pneumonia?

Older adults are more likely to have pneumonia than younger people. The chances of having both disability and disease increases with age, and which also increases the risk of getting pneumonia.

Research has shown that there is a high rate of sickness, hospitalization, and death associated with pneumonia in older adults. In fact, the majority of all deaths from pneumonia occur in people who are above the age of 65 years.

Let’s be informed!

Below are some proactive steps that you can take to prevent yourself or a loved one from getting pneumonia.

Continue reading