Think about the last time you visited your healthcare provider. Did you understand everything that was talked about? Did you leave the office confident that you had a solid plan for better health?
Medical appointments are short — and before you know it, you’re out the door. And sometimes there is a lot of information to take in, which is why it is very important to be prepared for the visit.
Fortunately, through the Affordable Care Act, Medicare beneficiaries can get an annual wellness visit every year at no cost to them. During this visit, beneficiaries can sit down with their clinicians to review their health and develop their personalized wellness plans. Remember that this is not to take the place of your routine physical, which Medicare does not cover. But the wellness visit is a great time to have in-depth conversations with your provider. When you make the appointment, be sure to let the receptionist know that you are scheduling your annual wellness visit and not your physical.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your medical appointment:
• Prepare for your appointment by making a list of your concerns and questions. This is the best way to maximize the limited and valuable time you have with your health-care provider and ensures you will remember everything you want to discuss. It is best to do bullet points to stay focused.
• Keeping a daily or weekly diary of how you are feeling can be helpful as well. Patterns may develop over time that could be beneficial for your provider to know, such as if you feel extremely tired after eating or if your hip hurts when it rains. Before the appointment, you can pare down the information to give your provider at your visit.
• Take notes while your provider is talking. Don’t rely on your memory. If you can’t write and listen simultaneously, bring a friend along to take notes or ask if you can tape record the visit. Small, handheld recorders are inexpensive and readily available.
• Schedule an appointment for first thing in the morning or right after lunch, when the medical office is less likely to be backed up.
• Bag up all your medications to bring with you so your provider has a visual on what you are taking. While the information is online, there is nothing like a bag full of pill bottles to get attention. Your health-care provider can also write a prescription on the spot for any that need to be refilled. It’s faster and easier than trying to call in a renewal. If you have medication that requires refrigeration, don’t bring that along but instead write the name and dose on a recipe card to put in your bag.
• Above all, be honest about any problems you are having, because your treatment depends on the information you provide the doctor. Also, don’t be afraid to speak up if there is something you don’t understand.
You can find out more about Medicare and Affordable Care Act benefits at the 8th Annual Senior Expo, Tuesday, May 13 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m, at the Cross Insurance Center, Main Street, Bangor. New location and new time, but same great event. And this year, there are educational break-out sessions. Thanks to Winterberry Heights for the use of their bus which will circle the parking lot and bring attendees right to the door. Save your energy for walking around inside.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865 or toll-free (800) 432-7812, or visit