How to Get Your Elderly Parent to See the Doctor

You may be among the hundreds of thousands of men and women located across the country who are the primary caretakers of their aging parents. One area in which you may be like many of these fellow travelers is in regard to getting your elderly parent to see the doctor. A good number of adult child caretakers of aging parents face a real challenge in getting their mothers or fathers into the doctor’s office. This article is presented to provide you what we think will be some useful strategies designed to get your parent to the doctor when necessary.

Determine Why Your Parent Is Reluctant to Go to the Doctor

The first step in getting your parent to the doctor’s office is to try and identify why he or she is reluctant to go. Indeed, you may have a parent who will avoid going to the doctor come hell or highwater.

You do not want to be heavy-handed in trying to determine why your parent does not want to go to the doctor. You do not want to make assumptions. What you do want to do is talk to your parent calmly and respectfully to try and garner information about why your mother or father doesn’t want to make a doctor’s visit.

By discussing a doctor’s appointment with your parent in a calm and collected manner, you may discern that there is a specific reason why your mother and father dreads such an engagement. Examples of why your older parent may not want to go to the doctor include:

  • Fear of getting more medicines prescribed when your parent already has a number of prescriptions to deal with at the time
  • Fear of a blood draw
  • Fear of other types of testing
  • Your parent dislikes his or her doctor 

As part of the discussion with your parent about going to the doctor, you want to make it clear that you are his or her advocate. 

You may face a situation in which your parent is unable to articulate specific reasons why he or she does not want to go to the doctor. If that is the case, some of the other strategies and tactics in this article may be of assistance to you. 

If your parent is suffering from dementia, the reason he or she may fear a doctor’s appointment stems from his or her dementia itself. Your mother or father may have a profound and generalized fear of going anywhere.

Suggest Finding a New Primary Care Physician

Another strategy to employ as a means of getting your parent to the doctor is suggesting finding a new primary care physician for your mother or father. This is a particularly sound strategy is your parent indicates that he or she really does not like his or her current provider. Even if your parent doesn’t specifically articulate a dislike of a current physician, suggesting a new one may do the trick when it comes to getting your mother or father to agree to going to a medical appointment.

Negotiate With Your Parent

Another strategy to consider as a means of getting your parent to a doctor’s appointment is negotiation. Before we dive into negotiation, we note that you cannot undertake this type of tactic in a manner that seems disrespectful. In other words, you cannot negotiate attending a medical appointment with an aging parent in the same manner you would with a young child. 

One aspect of negotiating is to form a collaborative approach to the matter of medical appointments. You and your mother or father can discuss how and when these appointments will occur. You can mutually agree that they will be kept to a minimum and only occur when necessary.

In a respectful manner, you can suggest having a meal together in a restaurant of your parent’s choice after a doctor’s appointment. Again, you do not want such a suggestion to have the tone of dangling an ice cream cone in front of five-year-old.

Have Someone Else Talk to Your Parent

Another person might be in a better position to convince your parent that a doctor’s appointment is a good idea. For example, perhaps your mother or father has a trusted contemporary. A peer might be better able to discuss the importance of attending a doctor’s appointment than your parent’s child. An added plus would be if your parent’s peer has the same primary care physician.

Consider a Telehealth Appointment

Telehealth is becoming ever more widely used, certainly since the pandemic years. Telehealth is providing itself perfectly suitable for a variety of different types of interactions with a doctor. Your parent might be in need of precisely the kind of appointment that can be accomplished via telehealth.

Some older people balk at the idea of telehealth because they are apprehensive about “making the technology work.” Assure your parent that you will see to it that the technical aspects are prepared for your mother and father and all she will need to do is sit down in front of a screen and go through the appointment itself. 

Try Home Health

Home health is not the same as a doctor’s appointment. However, if you really are facing a battle getting your parent to agree to an in-office appointment, taking advantage of what home healthcare might have to offer may be the next best thing for the time being. Ultimately, your parent will need to have a doctor’s appointment. Home health has some services that might fill the gap for the time being. Moreover, a home healthcare professional might be successful in convincing your parent that a doctor’s office visit will not be that much of an ordeal.

Let Go

Unless your parent has cognitive issues (like dementia) that he or she is incapable of making decisions on his or her own, your mother or father has the right to make medical decisions – including those involving doctor’s appointments – on his or her own. Therefore, you may reach a point at which you really are not making progress in getting your parent to a medical appointment.

Eventually, you may have to let the situation go – move on from trying to get your parent to a doctor’s office at this time. At a later date, you may be able to revisit the subject and your parent may prove to be more receptive about going to the doctor.