BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Dr. Tom VonSternberg of HealthPartners is the Senior Medical Director of Community senior care, home care, Hospice and Care Management.

He says the Medicare Annual Wellness Exam is a great opportunity for seniors to connect with their physicians.

“Ways for us to really ask about falls and fall risks, as well as preventative opportunities for flu shots, and cancer screening,” VonSternberg says.

VonSternberg says an annual medication review is very important for people over the age of 65. It’s a chance to see if all of those medications are still needed, or if they're putting the patient at risk for falls.

“Many of those medications will increase the risk of blood pressure changes, balance, alertness, reaction time, and those medications can be reviewed by your physician,” he says.

When it comes to preventing a fall, Vonsternberg says staying active is key and calls lifelong exercise “absolutely critical”.

He says a combination of aerobic activity, strengthening exercises, and balance exercises can really make a difference.

Having that conversation with an elderly loved one about keeping them fall-free in their home can be tricky at times. VonSternberg recommends including your loved one in the process and letting them know it's all about maintaining their independence.

“That we can prevent an injury that you'll lose your independence. That you might lose the ability to remain in your home, and that the changes that we'd recommend are minor compared to having to move,” he says. “Using that very important message of - if it's most important to you to remain independent, these are the things that you can consider doing.”

There are changes coming to Medicare in Minnesota. Have questions? HealthPartners can help at healthpartners.com/change or call 1-800-247-7015