It’s time for seniors (otherwise known as aging baby boomers) to be enterprising. I want you to work your way through a health care checklist.

Your two action items: First, look at your vaccination history to see if you need any. Second, re-evaluate your Medicare insurance coverage to make sure your protections and coverage are optimal in the coming year.

By being proactive, you can take steps to keep your well-being at its best.

Flu vaccinations

It’s widely recommended that everyone, and especially seniors, get annual influenza vaccinations. The flu season peaks between December and February. It takes about two weeks after the shot to build full immunity.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness. It can cause health complications, progressing into life-threatening pneumonia — a leading cause of death in seniors. The flu can be particularly dangerous to people with heart disease and diabetes.

Health care providers make getting flu vaccinations easy; many don’t require appointments. If you go to a provider who accepts your Original Medicare or an in-network provider for your Medicare Advantage, flu shots are usually free.

Many area drug stores offer vaccinations. Use an online flu vaccine finder to find dispensaries near you. Here’s a link: Call or check online for times of day when vaccinations are dispensed. If you care for a senior who needs transportation assistance, call and make an appointment.

Shingles vaccine

Three other vaccines are widely recommended for seniors. Medicare helps pay the cost.

Shingles is a debilitating, painful skin rash that occurs when a dormant chicken pox virus becomes active in the body, causing open blisters that are contagious. One in three adults who are affected by shingles are 60 years of age or older. The more advanced we are in years, the more prone we are to complications such as fever and loss of appetite.

The shingles vaccine is taken one time. Because the beneficial effects last for approximately five years, consult your doctor to determine the optimal age for taking it.

Pneumococcal vaccine

We have all heard of pneumonia but we have not necessarily heard of its related diseases — meningitis and bacteremia. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs; meningitis – an infection of the lining of the brain; bacteremia – an infection of the bloodstream. Pneumococcal infections can cause severe debilitations and even death.

The “pneumonia vaccine” is given in two parts; approximately one year apart.

Hepatitis B vaccine

Hepatitis B is a contagious disease that attacks the liver. Short-term, it causes flu-like symptoms and nausea. Over the long-term, symptoms may or may not be present but the disease causes liver damage that can be life-threatening.

The vaccine is administered in three or four injections over a six-month period.

With all vaccines, first consult your doctor to review your health history. Your doctor can determine whether a vaccine is appropriate for your body and age.

Medicare open enrollment

This is your reminder: If you are 65 or older and rely on Medicare, please review your coverage. Now, not later!

Every year, between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, you have the option of changing your Medicare coverage. Whether you have Original Medicare or use a Medicare Advantage plan, it’s your opportunity to review your coverage and make improvements. Any changes are effective Jan. 1, 2017.

I encourage you to be proactive. Every year, Medicare Advantage plans change the coverages they offer, as well as the medical providers with whom they partner. There is no guarantee the coverage you enjoy this year will be the same next year.

It’s up to you, the subscriber, to decide whether next year’s coverage fits your needs and expectations.

Your first concern should be whether your primary care physician and the specialists you see are still listed as medical providers on next year’s version of your Medicare Advantage plan. Your second concern should be whether the hospitals where your doctors and specialists practice are still included in the coverage plan. If you have Original Medicare, it doesn’t hurt to confirm that your doctors will continue to keep you as a patient and are still willing to bill and accept payment from Medicare.

If your doctors are no longer on your Medicare plan, then you need to find coverage options that works for you.

If you are an advocate for someone who is aging, talk to their medical providers to determine the need for vaccinations. Check on their Medicare coverage to make sure they can continue to see the doctors with whom they have ongoing relationships.

For more in-depth Medicare information, take a look at an article published in City Living two years ago:

Who said, “Getting old is simple”? Be proactive to ensure your long-term well-being and access to the medical care you desire.

MARLA BECK is the founder and president of Andelcare Inc., which provides in-home eldercare. Submit questions by calling (206) 838-1844 or via e-mail to To comment not this column, write to