General medical

As you get older, you will notice changes in your health. Some of these are a normal part of ageing, including:

  • Your muscles and ligaments becoming less flexible and elastic
  • Your reflexes slowing down and your coordination lessening
  • Your heart not pumping as strongly or your circulation declining
  • You need less food to provide you with energy

It is important to stay on top of any medical concerns you notice, and to regularly visit your doctor for check-ups. 

Preparing for your doctor's visits

To help prepare you for your doctor’s visits, the Let’s P.L.A.N. for better care initiative was developed. It encourages you to plan what you are going to discuss with your doctor, and to prepare some questions about diagnosis and treatment so you can fully understand what is going to happen. The initiative also suggests planning questions to ask your pharmacist for when you pick up your new medicine.

Prepare for better care

  • Write down your main concerns or questions
  • Make a list of your medicines and supplements
  • If you want to, you can take a support person with you or ask for a translator

Listen and share

  • Say if you don't understand or if a drawing or could help
  • Say if you are having problems with your medicines or treatment, or if you cannot afford them
  • Say anything else that could be relevant about your health

Ask questions

  • What is my health problem?
  • What happens next?
  • Why is that important?
  • Are there any other options?
  • What can I do to help with my health?

Note down what you need to do next

  • Take notes of what your doctor says so you can remember them later, or ask them to write them down for you

When you collect your medicine from your pharmacy, you can ask them questions about your medication, such as:

  • What is the medicine for?
  • What is its name?
  • How and when do I take it?
  • How long do I need to take it for?
  • What could happen if I stop taking it?
  • What are the side effects? What should I do if I get these?

You can ask as many questions as you need from both your doctor and pharmacist to ensure you know what is happening with your body and what the medication will do to help. You can find a copy of the Let’s P.L.A.N. for better care resource on the HQSC website.

Safe disposal of medicines

The Dispose of Unwanted Medicines Properly (D.U.M.P.) Project started in Auckland and advocates for the safe disposal of medicines. Medicines that are expired or unwanted can be safely disposed for free.
 
Medicines should never be dumped down the toilet or in the rubbish because this can seriously harm the environment. Instead, in many parts of the country, medicines can be returned to your pharmacy for safe disposal.
 
You may also choose to donate unused medicines to Medical Aid Abroad, which is an organisation that sends unwanted but safe medicines and medical supplies to developing countries. They have collection locations in Auckland and Christchurch. You can find more information on their website.

Medications

As you get older, you may need to take more medications than you used to. For more information on taking and managing medicines, visit our Medication page.

Vaccinations

Immunisations protect us from preventable illnesses that could potentially be life threatening. You will receive many vaccines at different points in your life, including as you get older. You can find out more about what vaccinations you need and why you need them on our Vaccinations and immunisation page.

Pressure injuries

Older people may be more likely to develop pressure injuries or bedsores as their skin is thinner or their mobility has decreased. Pressure injuries can become serious if not treated and can develop in a matter of hours. If you are prone to pressure injuries, it is important to check yourself frequently and move often to avoid too much pressure in one place. You can find more on pressure injuries here.

Advance Care Planning

You can create an Advance Care Plan at any age to plan for your future health care and end-of-life care. This plan will include your personal preferences and what is important to you. Making an Advance Care Plan will ensure that your future care will meet your social, cultural, religious, and personal needs, and can also include any treatment or care that you do or do not want to receive. You can find out more about Advance Care Planning on our Advance Care Planning page.

Home support

If you require more support at home for personal care or home services, you should contact a Needs Assessment Service Coordination (NASC) service. This organisation will assess your abilities, current resources, and needs to understand what services you may benefit from. You may be eligible for funded home support services through the Ministry of Health. To find out more about home support, what services are available, and funding, visit our Home Support page

Health insurance

New Zealand has a public health system, but having health insurance may allow you to receive private healthcare if you are diagnosed with a non-acute medical condition. Health insurance can reduce the cost of private treatment and give you faster access to treatment by avoiding public health waiting lists. To find out if health insurance is right for you, and for more information on what health insurance can offer, visit our Insurance page. 

Websites of interest

  • For more information on what is a normal part of ageing and when to seek medical advice, visit Health Navigator
  • Information on the general health of older people can be found on the Ministry of Health website

Find your nearest Age Concern