Over 65? How to Take an Active Role in Your Health Care

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Going to the doctor probably isn't on your "I can't wait to do this" list. Trying to understand health care? That definitely doesn't make the cut. But when it comes to your health, making the most of your doctor visits and understanding your health care options are vitally important to your overall well-being — especially as you get older.

To help make sure you're getting the most out of your health care, consider these guidelines before your next appointment.

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Get better care when you prepare

Your doctors know a lot about your health, but they certainly aren't mind readers. To make sure you're getting the care that's right for you, it's important to prepare for a doctor's visit in advance and share important details about your health.

"Everyone should be well aware of their conditions and really take an active role in their care," says Dr. Robert Mirsky, chief medical officer of Medicare at Aetna. "They should go to each visit with a set of questions or issues they'd like addressed and be able to comprehend what their doctor is telling them. Then they will be best prepared to have a conversation with their doctor and come to an agreement about their care plan."

Being fully prepared for a doctor's visit — and understanding your doctor's care plan — can be easier said than done. Along with making a list of questions for your doctor, consider taking a loved one or friend with you to your appointment. They can be a second "listening ear" and offer extra support. It's also important to bring a list of your medications to your doctor's office to make sure your medical record on file is accurate.

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Be a "care team" player

As you get older, you may need to see more than one doctor. "As you age, care should become much more team-based, especially if you have comorbidities (multiple health conditions)," says Dr. Mirsky. "In the ideal primary care practice, you'll see a multidisciplinary care team inside the practice, with the primary care physician at the center of the team."

Team-based care is led by your primary care doctor and/or specialist doctor. It can involve nurse case managers, pharmacists, dietitians, community health workers, and resources from your health plan.

"The more support you need, the more you should be in a more advanced primary care type of practice where they have lots of tools and resources to understand your needs. They can do everything that needs to be done in a visit — not just what you came in for on that day. Then, they can sequence your follow-up visits and other services you may need," says Dr. Mirsky.

If you're being treated for multiple health conditions, it's important to make sure your care is being coordinated across your care team. Have a conversation with your doctor at each visit to understand how your care is being coordinated and how you can make the most of the support and treatment your care team offers.

Make Medicare count

Enrolling in the right Medicare plan can make all the difference in your health. Along with making sure your doctor accepts the Medicare plan you're interested in, you'll also want to look into the different resources and support the plan offers to help you manage your total health.

"Some Medicare Advantage plans can bring you into various care management programs that are tuned to your individual needs," says Dr. Mirsky. Medicare Advantage plans may also offer community-based resource programs to offer extra support. "These programs can help identify social needs of patients and coordinate their benefits and community-based resources to get them meals support, transportation support, and more," he says.

Understanding your health conditions, following your care plans, and navigating the health care system can feel overwhelming. But taking an active role in your health can make things easier. Remember to ask questions and lean on all available resources for help. With support from your doctor, care team, and health plan, you can feel confident you're getting the right care for your health needs.

Speak to a licensed Aetna representative about Medicare
Monday-Friday 8am to 8pm CT, Sat. 9am to 5pm CT
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