This Is Why 2 Out of 3 Seniors Haven’t Been to the Doctor in Over a Year

You shouldn’t wait until you’re sick to make a doctor’s appointment. In fact, it’s a…

You shouldn’t wait until you’re sick to make a doctor’s appointment. In fact, it’s a good idea to get checked out even when you’re feeling tip-top. And as you get older, there are more even reasons to visit your physician regularly.

“You’re more likely to get diseases like diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, and arthritis as the years pass,” advises WebMD, which also cautions that the symptoms of some of these conditions don’t begin to show up until they’ve become serious. “An annual checkup gives your doctor a chance to find them early, when they can be more easily treated and sometimes cured.”

Yet new research conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by ClearMatch Medicare reveals that two out of three older adults in the U.S. haven’t been to the doctor in over a year. Read on to find out why.

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“There’s no hard and fast rule about how often seniors should see their health care providers,” Paul Takahashi, MD, told the Mayo Clinic News Network. “For most older adults, though, it’s a good idea to have at least one medical checkup a year.” Takahashi explains that this provides the opportunity for the doctor to “review medications, check on health concerns, talk about lifestyle topics, and go over recommended tests.”

Annual exams, including checking blood pressure, height and weight, bloodwork, and an electrocardiogram (EKG), can help set a baseline so that your doctor can compare your numbers as time goes on to help assess medical conditions, says Verywell Health.

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This information can provide more insights into your health than you might think. “Significant loss of height can indicate the acceleration of osteoporosis,” the site continues. “Significant weight loss or gain without trying can signify serious health problems” such as heart, liver, kidney disease, thyroid problems, infection, or cancer.

A doctor listening to his patient's heartbeat with a stethoscope.
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Seniors are at a higher risk for some conditions that can become serious before manifesting with symptoms. “Hypertension is often called a ‘silent killer’ because symptoms may not show up until it’s too late,” warns Healthline. “It increases your risk for stroke or heart attack. This is why it’s essential to have your blood pressure checked at least once a year.”

The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age, but the condition can often be asymptomatic or present with very common, non-specific symptoms like constipation. “Colorectal cancer is highly treatable if caught early,” says Healthline; in fact, 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths are preventable with a screening such as a colonoscopy. “However, many cases are not caught until they have progressed to advanced stages.”

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Despite the need for annual doctor and dental visits, Talker reports that two in three seniors in the U.S. haven’t been to the doctor in more than a year, according to a new survey. In fact, one in four seniors said they would rather go without air conditioning than go to the doctor.

“Other respondents said they’d do the dishes immediately after they eat for a week (34 percent) or talk to their least favorite relative for an evening (33 percent),” said Talker. “Some would go even further, opting to live on a deserted island for three days (27 percent).”

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These responses emphasized how much these seniors objected to the idea of a doctor visit, but their reasons varied from anxiety and fear to concern about the cost.

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Senior woman sitting and looking concerned.
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Thirty-four percent of survey respondents said their anxiety was holding them back from going in for a checkup, and 31 percent said they were afraid. Twenty-eight percent simply don’t like going to the doctor, and another 28 percent felt they couldn’t afford it.

Talker notes that “costs play a large role, since the lowest copayment the average senior remembers ever paying was around $38, but now each visit costs about $62, with half paying even more than this (49 percent).”

Other respondents said they were squeamish about bloodwork or vaccines. Forty-one percent “felt unheard or like their doctor doesn’t care,” says Talker, while “38 percent are worried about hearing their doctor’s diagnoses/feedback.” Talker also reports that 35 percent of those surveyed “have difficulty being vocal about their concerns, feeling like their doctor judges them for their eating habits (50 percent) or weight (48 percent).”

Despite these challenges, Takahashi recommends that seniors see a provider at least once a year. “We take good care of our equipment and our cars,” he says. “Taking care of ourselves is also really important.”