Health Info & Resources for Seniors
With its long days and warm weather, summer is the perfect time to catch up on medical appointments missed during the COVID-19 shutdown, says Roopa Anmolsingh, MD of St. Luke’s Senior Care Associates.
“Now that health care professionals are able to fully resume office visits, it’s important to have an in-person visit, and there’s no better time to schedule them than in July and August,” says Dr. Anmolsingh. This time of year, it’s still light outdoors well into the evening, which helps drivers who have difficulty seeing in the dark. Also, the roads are clear of hazards like leaves, snow, and ice, that can make driving and walking treacherous.
In addition, if — as many health experts are predicting — there is a resurgence of COVID-19 cases this fall, this, combined with typical fall and winter illnesses like colds and the flu, could result in less available patient visits. In March and April, many older adults missed appointments with health care providers — including medical doctors, dentists, optometrists, and podiatrists — as routine in-office health care appointments were canceled. The cancellations were in accordance with an emergency declaration that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf used to impose restrictions to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Despite the option of tev”
Some patients experienced weight loss because they were afraid to go out and buy their own groceries, she says. If they were fortunate enough to have someone shop for them, they provided them with only a partial list for fear of overburdening them. Others may also have missed medications because they were fearful to go out to pick them up. Again, with access to limited technology, online grocery shopping was not an option for many older patients.
Dr. Anmolsingh encourages people to see their primary care physician or geriatric specialist now and explain how their needs may have changed because of COVID-19. For example, can we arrange for medications and groceries — and even meals — to be delivered? In that way, the older adult would be ready if we’re no longer in the green phase, or should they be exposed to COVID-19 and have to be quarantined.
Meanwhile, many older adults have experienced, and may still be experiencing, depression resulting from limited opportunities to socialize with family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.
“Especially after the COVID era, we’re finding a lot more older patients who are depressed but weren’t previously or have had an exacerbation of their anxiety disorders,” Dr. Anmolsingh says. “Later-life depression often goes undetected and can have a significant adverse impact on quality of life, disease, morbidity, and mortality. Signs of depression in older adults can present atypically with symptoms such as cognitive, functional, or sleep problems, as well as fatigue or low energy. Suicide rates are almost twice as high in the older adult demographic when compared with the general population, with the rate highest for white men over 85 years old.
Dr. Anmolsingh explained that a thorough check-up for older adults should include not only a physical exam, but also a psychosocial evaluation, review of medications, a mental assessment, a review of preventative health screenings including immunizations, questions about urinary incontinence, and very importantly, a falls risk assessment, among other specifics.
“The goal is to encourage patients to adopt a healthy lifestyle to lower their risk of developing disability,” she says.
Besides seeing a medical physician, Dr. Anmolsingh also recommends that older adults see the following health professionals:
Dentist every six months for teeth cleaning and to ensure that dentures or partials fit correctly and there is no tooth decay or gum recession, ensuring adequate nutrition.
Podiatrist every six months, or more often if the older adult has diabetes or foot disorders. Podiatrists provide nail care that is especially important if the older adult can’t reach their toes. They can also assess foot pain and fit the patient for the proper footwear.
Ophthalmologist once a year even if vision seems good. Regular eye examinations can identify some conditions that have no symptoms and affect the eyes very slowly. By the time the patient notices any changes in vision, it may be too late to repair the damage. Early detection, on the other hand, can prevent or slow damage.
Audiologist as needed but especially when there’s hearing loss or if the patient wears hearing aids. The inability to hear can result in confusion, falls, and social isolation that can lead to depression.
Nutritionist as needed, especially if the older adult has fluctuations in weight, chronic comorbid conditions such as heart disease, a prior stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, or simply wants to develop healthier eating habits.
“Also, talk with your doctor about preventative health screenings for cardiovascular disorders, osteoporosis, colon, breast, lung, or cervical cancer screening and schedule them now,” she advises. “Depending on your age and health status, the concept of lag time to benefit is important in determining appropriate interventions.”
DOCTOR: "I'm afraid your husband will never be able to work again."
WIFE: "I'll go up and tell him right away — it will cheer him up."
"If my doctor could see me now with this champagne and caviar, he'd go crazy!"
"Why? Are you supposed to be on some kind of diet?"
"No. I owe him $500."
PATIENT: "My right foot hurts."
DOCTOR: "It's just old age."
PATIENT: "But my left foot is as old as my right foot. How come it doesn't hurt?"