After decades of being underinsured and, luckily, remarkably healthy, it had been quite some time since I participated in regular health care. I signed up for Medicare on turning 65 and found a new primary care provider. Thinking long term, I hoped to find a geriatrician, but where I live, the need exceeds the demand, and I couldn’t find one taking new patients. A client of mine introduced me to his osteopathic doctor; I liked how the doctor interacted with him, and he seemed thorough and very available.
Right away, I was in front of the calendar, making appointments for the adjunct providers. The gastroenterologist ordered a colonoscopy. The sleep doctor ordered a sleep study and then a fitting for a CPAP. (And then a second, and another fitting, before I abandoned it altogether.) The gynecologist ordered a mammogram. The dermatologist removed some spots and then called for a follow-up. The cardiologist ordered a battery of tests in the hospital. Before too long, it will be time for annuals and more follow-ups.
It takes some time to schedule these appointments. I don’t work a regular nine-to-five job, so I can dedicate a morning or afternoon to tend to this task. People with less flexible work commitments must take time off from work. Other time-savers: I can get test results through a portal, so I don’t have to sit by the phone, waiting for a doctor’s office to call, and I have my pharmacy app on my phone.
But I live alone, and my daughters aren’t in the neighborhood, so when I need rides, friends or Uber get me to and from—add that to the scheduling challenge. If anesthesia is part of a procedure, Uber won’t do; the doctors require you to have someone to escort you from the office or hospital to the car and promise to walk you into the house. Fortunately, I have a reciprocal arrangement with another single mom.
Without something like that, it can be hard to ask for help when you can’t return the favor. If that’s the case, local ride services may be available, if you make arrangements ahead of time and are prepared to wait if you aren’t the only rider that day. Or perhaps your senior center can connect you with rides.
Good health is a luxury I won’t take for granted, but maintaining it as I get older is going to be a challenge. I’m going to need a bigger calendar.
Pepper Evans works as an independent-living consultant, helping older adults age in place. She is the empty-nest mother of two adult daughters and has extensive personal and professional experience as a caregiver. She has worked as a researcher and editor for authors and filmmakers. She also puts her time and resources to use in the nonprofit sector and serves on the Board of Education in Lawrence Township, NJ.