What medical service options are available to seniors?

Naturally, a full range of medical services are available to seniors who are capable of traveling to a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital, but what about seniors who are unable to travel? What medical services are available to them? Fortunately, many doctors and geriatric nurse practitioners make “house calls” to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, transitional care units, and households to care for patients where they live.

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What residential medical services are available?

Whether the senior is living in a senior apartments, independent living, assisted living, or other continuing care community, there are doctors and nurses who visit patients and residents on a regular basis to provide basic preventive care services to keep them healthy. They also provide diagnosis, monitoring and ongoing treatment for illnesses and injuries. Medical services include:

  1. Ongoing primary care — scheduled checkups and preventive health screening
  2. Review of medical history and general physical exams — health monitoring for general and specific conditions
  3. Care management — ongoing monitoring and care
  4. Assessments to prepare for surgery — pre-exams and consultation before a scheduled surgery
  5. Short-term care after hospital discharge — transitional sub-acute care upon return home
  6. Hospice care — humane and compassionate care for people in the last phases of an incurable disease so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible
  7. Access to specialty providers and facilities — when a higher level of care is needed
  8. Medical directorship and consultation — an experienced medical professional to look after seniors, answer their questions, and act on their behalf
  9. Rehabilitation services — scheduled sessions with licensed and certified specialists
  10. Behavioral care — psychological therapy and medication
  11. Transportation services — should a senior need to visit an onsite clinic or specialist
  12. Emergency response and support services — on-call and ready 24-hours a day, seven days a week

There are also a number of medical professionals who visit the home to provide medical services. Such physicians work with patients who have mobility issues, many of whom are elderly. If a person has difficulty traveling to the doctor’s office, chances are good that their insurance would cover a house call appointment in the same way it would cover a regular office visit. Physicians who work with homebound seniors assume the role of a primary care provider and work with the patient’s other doctors as needed. They also work with the local hospitals and other major health care facilities to make it easy to maintain continuity of care.

Which preventive health screenings are most important for seniors?

Preventive screenings are an important part of health awareness for seniors residing within assisted living facilities as well as for those who live at home, because as we age, our bodies become more fragile and susceptible to illness.

There are many preventive health screenings that have been recognized as a cost-effective way to identify and treat potential health problems before they develop or worsen. The following are merely three diseases for which seniors should be sure to receive screening:

Cardiovascular disease — Arteriosclerosis is a condition in which cholesterol, fat, and other blood components build on the walls of arteries, creating lesions or plaques. The American Heart Association suggests people receive a cardiovascular physical examination and risk factor evaluation by their doctor every five years. Two simple tests are performed for the screening: blood pressure measurement and cholesterol measurement.

Osteoporosis — Osteoporosis is a disease of bones that leads to an increased risk of fracture. It’s most common in women, but also can affect men. With osteoporosis, the bone mineral density (BMD) is reduced, bone microarchitecture deteriorates, and the amount and variety of proteins in the bone are altered. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women aged 65 and older be routinely screened for osteoporosis. A simple bone density screening test (a type of x-ray) can quickly identify bone loss. If bone loss is found, a person is generally counseled regarding the need for a diet high in calcium and vitamin D, exercise, and hormone replacement therapy. Drugs may also be used to treat osteoporosis. Medicare pays for this screening every two years.

Colorectal cancer — Colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is a major cause of cancer death in the US. Screening studies can prevent colon cancer and are recommended for average risk persons beginning at 50 years of age. Compliance with these recommendations has increased, particularly among those over 65 years old who have an increased prevalence of cancer and for whom screening is covered by Medicare. Many people avoid colorectal screening, because they fear it will be embarrassing or uncomfortable. However, the first step is simple: the screener will ask a series of questions to see if the patient is at risk for colon cancer. If risk is determined, only then will further testing be required.

For more information about issues pertaining to the health of seniors, visit www.usa.gov