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Does Your Loved One Refuse to Visit the Doctor?

“Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing!” If you’re a caregiver, you’ve probably heard that sentence, or a similar one, from your loved one. But if you’ve noticed a suspicious mole on your dad’s back, or that your mom is losing what seems like a lot of weight for no reason, it’s time to get them to the doctor.

Even if you don’t notice any overt issues, it’s important for seniors to get regular checkups. Small health problems can become big ones, and some serious health issues have no symptoms.

According to the Aetna Health Care guide, seniors age 65 to 70 should visit the doctor once a year (more if the doctor recommends it), while those between the ages of 70 and 80 should visit about twice a year, and those over 80, every three months, or as often as their doctor recommends.

So you know it’s important for your loved one to go to the doctor. But now, how do you convince them to get regular check-ups if they insist they are healthy?

Listen to Their Concerns:

There can be many reasons your loved one might be reluctant to visit the doctor. To avoid a flat-out refusal, try this tactic: sit down with your loved one in a non-threatening environment (i.e. make tea for two and take it out to the porch), then gently ask a few questions to get to the bottom of your loved one’s unwillingness.

Saying “Why won’t you go?” might make your loved one clam up. Instead, try starting with, “What was going to the doctor like when you were a kid?” Ideas about doctors are often formed in childhood, and your loved one probably grew up in a time when medicine was far less advanced than it is now, and hospitals were a place for pain, suffering, and death. Also try asking if your loved one has ever had a bad experience with a doctor.

Your loved one may also be afraid the examination will find something wrong and they fear losing control of their decision-making ability. Not to mention the fear of large medical bills. Remind him or her that they can decide what happens next and offer to go with them to be an advocate. These questions and an offer to be supportive will take you out of the role of enforcer and can give you a window into your loved one’s resistance.

Help Solve the Problem:

Once you understand why your loved one doesn’t want to visit the doctor, you can help assuage their fears. If they were frightened by medical care in their youth, gently ask them, “Do you really think medical care is still like that?” Sometimes, just voicing the fear will help your loved one overcome it. Together, look over the advancements in medical care over the last century. You’ll both be amazed at how far we’ve come, and the knowledge will also help reassure your loved one.

Next, find out what medical care qualities would make your loved one feel more comfortable. If they have a primary care provider, is there something about that person that is off-putting? It’s not uncommon today to be a patient in a large practice where you are not seen by the same person each visit. That can be very difficult for an older adult who likes building relationships. If they do not have a provider, say, “What would your ideal doctor be like?” Perhaps your elderly mother is fearful of having a male doctor, or your father wants one who has a number of years of practice under his or her belt. Reassure your loved one that you can help find them a doctor with those qualities.

Once you’ve helped your loved one face and deal with the fears that make them reluctant to visit the doctor, you might find them a lot more willing. Have you ever experienced trouble getting a loved one to go to the doctor?