Does your father think he’s “as healthy as an ox” but also is as stubborn as a mule when it comes to visiting a doctor? He’s not alone. According to a 2016 study by the Cleveland Clinic, only about 42% of men are willing to go to the doctor when they feel a health issue cropping up. What’s more, 53% of men simply don’t talk about their health at all.
With Father’s Day coming up, it’s a perfect time to encourage your dad to go to the doctor and be mindful of his health. Kate Granigan, a member of the Aging Life Care Association’s board of directors and CEO of LifeCare Advocates, shared some tips for gently encouraging your dad to visit a doctor in the near future.
Understand his hesitation
Maybe your dad was raised to be strong and show no signs of pain—confronting his aging body could induce anxiety for him. Or maybe it’s about control. As we age, we lose control over many things, including our health. Whether your father wants to look strong or feel like he has some sort of control left over his life, the first step is making sure you understand his hesitation about going to the doctor. That way you can more easily allay some of his fears.
Make it relatable
Put your dad’s health care into his own terms. If you’ve watched him limping for six months and know he loves to go golfing, ask him if he’s thought about how the doctor might help get him back on the links. “You have to incentivize him,” Granigan advises. “It has to be meaningful. Don’t come at it from a ‘you must’ perspective, but rather a ‘I wonder if you’ve considered’ perspective.”
Maybe your dad’s problem isn’t the doctor visit itself, but rather the trouble it takes to go there. Say he’s got bad knees and walking to an office on the far side of a hospital just isn’t going to happen. In that case, suggest a creative approach: Bring the care into his home. Home options are available in many areas—or for the tech-savvy pops out there, telehealth will allow him to see a doctor straight from his phone.
Bring a friend
It’s a good idea to suggest to your father that—if he decides to go—he should bring two things with him to the doctor: a list of questions about any health concerns (and the knowledge that he has every right to get those answers) and a trusted person who can help take notes. “Having someone attend as their note-taker and listener is a way to reduce stress because they won’t have to remember everything all at one time,” Granigan says.
Honor his decision
Remember, you can never force your dad to go to the doctor. As long as he’s got the cognitive ability and capacity to make his own decisions, you’ll still need to respect what he decides, even if it’s not the choice you’d make. “It’s not our prerogative as an adult child to insist anyone does anything,” Granigan said. “Just because you reach a certain age doesn’t mean you regress back to being told what to do.”