When Your Elderly Relatives Don't Want to Visit the Doctor

When your elderly relatives don't want to visit a doctor

You’re worried about your dad’s health but he refuses to see the doctor. Your grandmother’s physician has ordered lab tests but she claims she doesn’t need them. These scenarios are very common and very frustrating. Your elderly relatives may genuinely think there is nothing wrong or they may suspect they have a health problem but hope it will simply go away.

Discussing health concerns with aging loved ones can be scary and difficult for everyone involved. While there is no set approach that will work in every situation, here are five things to keep in mind when bringing up medical care.

Be direct and share your emotions

Denial about health issues is common among the elderly. The best way to address your relatives’ medical problems may be to force them to confront what they’re avoiding. Don’t be afraid to bring up your concerns, but remember to emphasize that you’re starting a conversation because you love them and want them to be healthy.

"Denial about health issues is common among the elderly." click to tweet

Find out why they don’t want to visit the doctor

Are your loved ones worried they will be placed in a care home or will no longer be able to drive? Does your grandfather not have a way to get to the doctor or is he afraid of sitting in the waiting room alone? Are your parents simply ashamed to discuss their current condition or symptoms?

Addressing your elderly relatives’ concerns, discussing their options, and pointing out the benefits of preventive care may give them the courage to visit a doctor. You can’t control your relatives, but you can be empathetic to their concerns and thoughtful about taking steps to remove perceived obstacles.

Offer to join them

Your relatives may be more willing to see a doctor if you are by their side throughout the process. Joining them may also give you a chance to speak with their doctor and further explain medical concerns. Suggest going out to eat before or after the appointment to make the experience less unpleasant.

Suggest a doctor that makes housecalls

If your relative still refuses to go to the doctor, suggest finding a physician that makes house calls. House calls make for a more personalized and less stressful experience for the patient and do not have to be exorbitantly expensive.

In an interview with US News and World Report, Dr. Justin Davis​, a San Francisco based doctor who typically sees a few house call patients every day, described the benefits of a house call for the patient: [the patient feels] “like they’re with somebody who knows about them, or at least cares about them, and can give them time and really listen to them.”

Enlist support from a third party

If none of the above methods work, try talking to your siblings, extended family, or a trusted friend of your relative. When several respected sources give your elderly loved one the same general message, the issue becomes harder to ignore.