Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day Is Sept. 15

Cancer & Caregiving

While the country struggles for normalcy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, one day that should not be overlooked is Tuesday, Sept. 15: Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day.

Because of COVID-19, people will have to be more diligent this year in planning annual checkups, office visits and treatments.

“Making sure your loved one keeps their doctor appointments during the COVID-19 crisis can be a challenging task,” said Missy Miller, medical outreach director for The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com. “It is important to know that medical facilities are taking extra precautions to make sure they are providing a safe environment to treat their patients effectively and in a timely manner.”

Don’t let the pandemic keep family or friends from getting the care they need. In honor of Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day, educate yourself on potential roadblocks and possible solutions.

Doctor Visits During COVID-19 Pandemic

For those caring for someone with mesothelioma and other cancers, virtual treatment options should be at the top of the list when making a plan.

Even though hospitals and treatment centers have social distancing measures in place, those who are immunocompromised should take advantage of telemedicine if at all possible.

“Medical facilities offer in-person visits for patients who need a physical exam or have an issue that the doctor needs to see,” said Miller. “They are also offering telehealth consults for patients who have general questions, concerns, or to go over test results.”

Many seniors and those who are ill are often isolated, especially if they have no close family members on whom to rely. This is particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the vulnerable are staying at home to avoid contracting the virus.

Help this at-risk group of people stay healthy by enabling them to continue their care. Some might need encouragement to make an appointment, or to keep one that is already scheduled.

“Don’t be afraid to call your loved one’s doctor’s office and find out what appointment options are available and what to expect when the patient arrives,” said Miller.

The American Cancer Society has tips designed to make the visit easier, including:

  • Help patients write down questions to ask the doctor
  • Gather health history information
  • Make a list of medications
  • Bring a calendar to easily facilitate a follow-up visit

Help for Vulnerable Populations amid COVID-19

In addition to those at high risk due to a cancer diagnosis, there are others who could use an extra hand with their health on Sept. 15, and all year long.

Often people in lower-income households suffer health care disparities and avoid seeing a doctor due to cost or absence of health insurance. Telemedicine can be difficult to obtain because of a lack of internet access and accompanying technology.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a directory of health centers that use a sliding scale for payment, so those who are uninsured can find options for care. The service is searchable by ZIP code.

If you have a low-income neighbor or family member, offer to help them find access to care and facilitate getting them to their appointments.

Temporary billing changes to Medicare, enacted because of the pandemic, can benefit seniors during this period of uncertainty.

Virtual visits are now covered through Medicare at the same rate as in-person visits. This extends beyond coverage for COVID-19-related health issues.

Visits that are covered by Medicare include:

  • Office visits
  • Mental health counseling
  • Preventative health screenings without copayment
  • Virtual check-ins
  • Online patient portals
  • Telehealth visits via computer
  • Visits by phone

In addition, prior authorization stipulations for Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans are being waived in certain cases.

Flu Vaccines Important During Pandemic

As researchers work on developing a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s important to not lose sight of another health risk that appears this time every year: The seasonal flu.

Health officials are stressing the need for people to get the influenza vaccine to lower the risk of illness and hospitalizations while the country is still dealing with the pandemic.

According to experts at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the flu vaccine is imperative for cancer patients so they do not become ill enough to need in-patient care. Being treated at a hospital risks exposure of this vulnerable population to COVID-19.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control noted that only 45.3% of adults over the age of 18 got the flu vaccine during the 2018-19 flu season. Of those in high-risk categories, like cancer patients, only 48% received the vaccine.

It is important to note that the flu vaccine does not offer protection against COVID-19, but it will not increase your risk of contracting the virus.

Check in with friends and family to make sure they are aware of the importance of the influenza vaccine. Offer to take them to their physician or clinic for the shot, and be sure to take all the necessary social distancing precautions when there.

No matter the time of year, it’s essential to stay current with your health care needs. On Sept. 15, show you care by doing your part on Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day.

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