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“Don’t Make Me Go!”: When Aging Parents Don’t Want to See a Doctor

Remember when you were a kid, and you did everything you could think of to avoid going to the doctor? Crying screaming, locking yourself in your room — the works.

Fast forward: You’re a grown adult with kids of your own (who you would never dream of annoying, right?). Now you’re noticing that the tables are turning. Your parents don’t want to see the doctor. And while they may not resort to the same theatrics that you did as a kid, they have plenty of their own reasons for not wanting to go.

    Ways NOT to Get Your Parent to See a Doctor

  1. Shaming
  2. Nagging
  3. Bribing
  4. Telling them you’re going one place, then actually bringing them to the doctor
  5. Yelling

It’s possible that they’re just being stubborn. Or, it may be because they’re scared, can’t get there, or just plain don’t like doctors.

You’ve decided that you’re not going to give up. But you’re not quite sure how to do it.

Here are a few excuses your parent may give you for not going to the doctor — and why you can’t let them get away with it.

Doctors aren’t the only people who can treat patients. Other providers, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, can provide high-quality care.

“But I feel fine.”

Your parent may feel perfectly healthy right now, and that’s great. However, there are several conditions, like high blood pressure and colon cancer, that are called “silent” killers. They don’t cause symptoms until they’re in their later stages when they’re harder to treat and more severe.

Remind them of a friend or family member who had these conditions, and how hard it was to go through treatment — especially when it could have been prevented.

A provider can often spot subtle signs or tell your parents if they’re at risk for diseases with a simple physical exam or blood tests. They can often catch potential issues before it’s too late.

“I’ve never smoked, I exercise, and I eat well. I’m not at risk for any serious illnesses.”

People who haven’t led risky lifestyles can still be at risk for serious diseases, such as breast cancer or depression. They can happen to anyone at any age. And even if your parents don’t have any serious diseases, they can still get short-term illnesses, like the flu.

These can become downright miserable, and even life-threatening, if their body isn’t in tip-top shape to fight them. Their provider can make sure that they’re in good health so they can avoid getting sick, and fight the illness if they do.

“Let me make my own decisions.”

As they age, your parents may feel like they’re starting to lose a little bit of control over what happens to them. Their bodies are changing. Their ability to do for themselves feels like it’s slipping away.

Not going to the doctor may simply be a way for them to feel like they are making a decision about their own life and taking back some of that control.

Be empathetic and give them a sense of control whenever you can. For example, let them go to the provider they prefer at the facility they like. Speaking of…

“I don’t like my doctor.”

Sometimes, the reason for not wanting to go is as simple as they don’t like their provider. And the reason could be for something minor, like they waited an extra 5 minutes at their last appointment, to something more severe, like they don’t feel that the provider listens well.

The main point is that going to the doctor is too important to skip. Fortunately, there are plenty of highly qualified providers available at Stormont Vail Health, so it’s just about finding one that matches with your parent’s personality.


> Find a primary care provider for your parent.
> Check out the Stormont Vail provider directory.


“It’s too inconvenient. I can’t get there, and I don’t have the money to afford care anyway.”

These are valid reasons for avoiding a doctor’s visit, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be resolved. Offer to give them a ride. If you can’t drive them and have a little money to spare, spring for a cab or rideshare service. At Stormont Vail, a case worker can also help you coordinate means of transportation.

If you don’t have the means to help with finances, there are several ways to make sure your parents can afford care. The provider’s financial office may offer payment plans or senior discounts. Once your parents hit age 65, make sure they are enrolled in Medicare and know what services are covered.

“I don’t want to know if something is wrong.”

Fear is a common reason why people of any age avoid the doctor. As your parents get older, they may know that aging puts them at a higher risk of having certain health conditions — and they really don’t want to find out.

Remind them it’s best to catch a disease early as possible and start treatment right away, so the earlier they see a provider, the better. And if the provider doesn’t find anything, they can rest easy.

Offer to go with your parents to their appointments for support. Tell them you will be there to support them no matter what. If they find out they have high blood pressure, you’ll help them cook heart-healthy meals. If they need surgery, you will take care of them and help nurse them back to health.

While you’re there, you can also ask for your parent’s permission to talk to the provider about their health. Because of healthcare privacy laws, you can’t simply go to your their doctor and say, “How is my mom’s diabetes doing?” However, knowing how their care is going could you help you in your quest to get your parents to keep up with appointments.

“Why? You don’t go to the doctor, either.”

Ouch, burn. But, they may have a point. It’s hard to convince someone to be healthy when you’re not following your own advice.

Be an example to your parents. Start going to the doctor regularly, and lead a healthy lifestyle alongside them.

“You’re just going to keep bugging me, anyway.”

Reassure them that you won’t nag — and stick to that promise.

Once your parents finally go to the doctor, resist the urge to bombard them with questions. Instead set up a check-in schedule. Maybe once a month you guys have a conversation about health, medications and doctor’s visits.

There are plenty of ways to convince your parents to get to a provider. If you’re having trouble finding something that works for you, you may want to try asking your friends who are going through the same thing. And of course, you can always ask your own provider for their suggestions.

Were you successful? Call (785) 270-4440 to schedule an appointment for your parents or yourself with a Stormont Vail primary care provider.

If your parents are on Medicare Part B, they can also see a nurse practitioner at the Cotton O’Neil Wellness Clinic for a wellness health visit. Call (785) 354-6545 to schedule an appointment.

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