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Hi there,
I am hoping to gain some insight or advice here on how to best deal with a frustrating situation involving my mom. My parents are retired and entering their late 60's. They live independently in their own home and are in fairly good health. My dad is very active and in good physical shape for his age (goes on hikes daily, gardens, eats very well, etc). My mom is not in as good of health as my dad (overweight, does not get enough exercise) but no major health problems...that we know of! The issue is she refuses to go to a Dr for a check-up of any sort. My dad said it has been 20 years since her last well woman visit including a pap test or mammogram. He called me to express that he is frustrated and has been trying to convince her to no avail to see a Dr. He said she becomes defensive and says she is fine, or that she rather not know that something is wrong. She has some obvious decay somewhere in her mouth (teeth) since you can smell a musty smell when she is close to you and my dad encouraged her to see the dentist for a cleaning and eval but she refuses this too. She thinks that because her teeth 'look' normal at first glance that nothing is wrong but doesn't want to admit that with aging teeth and gums are prone to issues. I tried for 5 or so years to get my mom to see a Dr for a well visit and gave up some years ago but now my dad is the one feeling how urgent this is. She has mild bladder issues and spotting (which she should not being post menopausal). What can we do to get her to a Dr? Could this be a bigger issue than her just being stubborn? I have already tried saying things like "would you want me to never go to the Dr?" "You have a grandchild that loves you and we want you here to see him grow up" "We really love and care about you and want you to be healthy". My dad is worried that if I talk to her about this again she will know he confided in me and will get very angry at him. I don't know how to help :(

Thank you!

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I was firmly on your mother's side right up until the word "spotting." But now I see I have three pages of posts to catch up with before I say anything: I hope meanwhile that you're making progress with persuading her..?
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That is a difficult one. Maybe she doesn't like the doctor she has seen in the past. Encourage her to find a new one, if there is something 'wrong' with her and she finds out during a routine visit-this gives her the opportunity to plan ahead. Not everyone gets the chance to plan ahead, they either become ill suddenly or die suddenly with no chance to plan. It's her life, she needs to 'plan' it in the direction she wants it to go. She has this opportunity now but may not have it at any given point.
I dislike going to the dentist too, but oral health problems can lead to medical issues. Think of how much better her mouth will feel if she receives routine dental care. I find the older I get the more 'difficult' going to the dentist is, maybe she can locate a dentist that caters to cowards and/or offers sedation dentistry. Losing all your teeth and getting dentures or doing without teeth is not 'fun' I see people everyday in my work who don't have teeth and I see it in my dad who has dentures but hates them.
Offer to go with your mom for the doctor and/or dental appointment. She may have some minor issues that she can receive treatment for and 'feel better'. Maybe she is depressed, a primary care doc can assess her for depression. Many people with depression have feelings much like your mom. She needs to see the positive side of doctor visits. My mom passed suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 64, I hope you have your mom much longer than that. Be supportive but don't 'hound' her, use encouragement and tell her your concerns if she don't at least have a routine checkup. Maybe you can visit the doctor together and both of you get check ups or a dental cleaning. good luck.
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One third of women with post menopausal bleeding have endometrial cancer, and your mother may know this. What she may not know is that 80% of the cancers are cured! She may not want to face the reality of cancer if she thinks its a death sentence. Maybe - maybe - she already knows she has cancer.

My mthr's only friend told me recently that she is sure my mthr knew she had cancer years before we rescued her. Friend worked in the herb shop and mthr was having her buy anti-cancer products. She was "too embarrassed" for anyone to see her going to the herb shop! When we rescued her, her hemoglobin was about 5.5, almost fatal, because she had active bleeding from her mass. She could have easily slipped away at any time. That may be what your loved one wants - to go without treatment and slip away.
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Oh and by the way, don't let her discourage your dad from taking the meds he needs and taking care of his health. My dad had Parkinson's and colitis. Mom was convinced the colitis was caused by dad's Parkinson's meds and wanted him to stop taking the meds. When the colitis really kicked in, she made excuses for taking him to the doctor for treatment. I lived 800 miles away and no one would listen to me and my brother just let her do what she wanted. Well dad died. And she blames every doctor and every pill and everyone except herself.

Look out for your dad and keep an eye on her mental stability. Good luck.
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My mother is exactly like this but she is 84. She only goes to the doctor if there is a real problem, i.e., heart attack or something in which she has to be hauled off in an ambulance. Seriously. She never takes meds except a beta blocker. Has good eye sight at the moment and still drives everywhere. She can not be reasoned with or talked to about getting check ups and doesn't even at this moment have a doctor for general things like colds or whatever. She refuses. We have tried to reason with her but she has one million excuses for not going to,the doctor. Gets mad if we try to talk to her about it. So I have to take the attitude that when she gets sick enough or is in enough pain, she will seek help. That is all we can do for her at this point. And she has been this way all her life. She also will not go to the dentist and has cheap dentures that make it difficult for her to eat certain foods. If your mother is like my mother, she is scared of the doctor and scared of her,own mortality. Just refuses to act like a grown up. So you might as well stop worrying about something you can not change.
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Perhaps she would see a Holistic or Acupuncture practitioner, even a chiropractor. They generally steer clear of pharmaceuticals and prescribe herbal remedies. I suggest this because of her general dislike of all things to do with traditional medicine. I know Reputable chiropractors will recommend patients to MD's if they suspect serious disease.
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If your Mom is mentally clear you really have no option but to respect her wishes whether you agree with them or not. Perhaps she's already done a lot of
thinking and she's decided how she wants her life to play out. Lying to her will only destroy any relationship you have with her.
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I tend to agree that there is a bigger issue going on here than just her stubbornness. You mentioned that she hasn't seen a doctor in almost 20 yrs. How was her attitude about doctors prior to that? Something seems to have set her off about the medical profession in general, and I think it might be a matter of finding out what it was that happened. Fibromyalgia comes to mind as an example of how insensitive many physicians were before fibromyalgia because a "for real" medical condition (which predominately affects women). Perhaps your mother went through something similar in the way in which she was treated.
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I hate to be the bearer of bad news for this situation. From your description, it sounds to me like you may very well have to see a lawyer and go for guardianship of your mom, plain and simple. It sounds to me like she's not really in her right mind and that she really does need a guardian to make these kind of decisions for her. Guardians have the authority to even make medical decisions along with all other major decisions. Just from your description of things it sounds to me like she's neglecting herself, which is often very common in the elderly. You'll want to find a special lawyer who specializes in this kind of thing, and also study up on elder law in your state. If it turns out you just can't handle her, she may very well need a nursing home but can handle her an override her will, and get her to do right. Just from your description, it sounds like she's not at all of very sound mind. It sounds to me like your mom definitely needs a guardian. All of you may also want to talk with a social worker at the adult protective services in your town. I'm going to do something with my surrogate dad right now and I can tell you from experience that the more information APS has, The higher likelihood that they'll take your case. I know from experience that they need enough information to even consider the case, so the more information they get, the better. My surrogate dad is also neglecting himself, so I know what you're going through. The APS has since taken over and assigned Dad a social worker. Their main goal now is to get him out of the rundown slum he's been living in for so long. I really do know what you're going through.
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All you can do is tell her you love her and care about her health ... the rest is up to her. I will give an example. I have a very close friend who is extremely overweight and is a diabetic. Now her sugars are so out of control, she is on insulin. She has not changed her ways. Maybe she cannot. Maybe she is a food addict (strongly suspect). She goes to doctors all the time. In fact, she has even been labeled a hypochondriac, yet she is NOT taking care of her health and no one can force her to. I mentioned it only once and she denied that she overeats. Never said it again. Maybe symptoms will scare her into going one day. I know prevention is better. Love her. Tell her. After that, you have done all you can.
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I should also ask you, What is it you feel like you should do about the situation? Your have to realize we are all living in different states/countries and all have different backgrounds. Not knowing all that makes a huge difference in how you re-act to your mother's not want to go for annual physicals. I'm sensing she is into herbal remedies of some sort, because of your comment re the flu shot. Many people feel this way, but there are many well documented sources that indicate that is not the case. People can have mild symptoms after a flu shot, but not the full blown flu.

That being said, again, you have to take all comments into consideration and approach it from your knowledge of who she is. You lived with her, you know whether or not this is something that's a lifetime fear, whatever.

But again, nobody can make an adult who is not suffering from dementia do anything. I don't believe you can drag her to a doctor, I don't believe you can drag her to a psychiatrist any more than I believe she could drag you to one.
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I guess I'm a little more sneaky. I would likely find a doctor who is personable and agreeable to working with mom and then I might tell a few fibs. Like in everyday conversation I might say, "Oh mom. I think I'm going to see this female doctor a friend of mine at work went to. She has a new approach and isn't into the old school way of weighing you, lecturing you, etc. She is there to address what your needs are and does it in a very compassionate way. My friend Kelly, loves her and is very excited to have found her. Maybe be both should go to see her. Afterwards, we could do a little shopping and pick up lunch. What do you say?" I might try that and see if she is interested. But, if she isn't, you can't force her. Good luck.
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BTW, your mom shouldn't be putting YOU through this. Perhaps you should approach it through that angle.

"You can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink."
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I'm going to look at this from a different point of view. And it's going to sound mean.

Your mom is old enough to make the decision as to whether or not she wants to see a doctor, that is, unless you feel she is somehow depressed and/or mentally incapable to do so. I'm thinking she is depressed. But she's not going to believe that and there is probably no way you're going to get her to a doctor.

How do you deal with this? I have no idea other than the tough love stance, i.e., if you don't go see the doctor, you will die, and I don't want you to die, I love you, whatever.

This happened to a neighbor of mine. While husband was physically fit, his wife was heavy, had kidney problems, along with back problems, you name it. I believe it was all due to the weight issue, but I'm not a doctor. She ate whatever she wanted not caring about her weight. They lived here for about seven years. She died three years ago. He's remarried again and very happy. (Sorry to have put that in there, but I guess I'm trying to show that at some point, family members just throw up their hands and say I can't do this anymore, whatever!" In other words, he moved on. Yes, the kids miss their 'mom' but I doubt the husband does. He misses what he married, not what she became.

There's absolutely nothing you can do with a woman like this. She has a death wish. And unless you can show her that, you just have to stand by and watch it. That is, until you can come up with some sort of family intervention, tough love stance, again, We love you mom, we don't want to see you die, but that's what's going to happen if you continue on this course.

Good luck.
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I get that Jackie... but she does have a family who loves her and wants to see her be here for a long time. I am an only child so the care and worry of my parents as they age will eventually be my total responsibility someday when they can't care for themselves. I am just trying to get her to see that if she addresses her health now instead of later it could result in a better quality of life and longevity! That is all. In the end, yes, it is her decision.
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If your mother does not have dementia, truly it is her business how she takes care of her health. No one can force her to go to the doctor however well-meaning they are.
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CLick on the Elder Care tab on the top of the page and read about Dementia and alzheimers.
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By the way, thank you all for the input and advice. I called a close friend last night who lost her mother very young to a tumor on her ovary because she never went to the doctor for a well woman for almost 20 years (like my mom). She said if she had known what she knows now she would have taken charge more and been more assertive with her mom about going to the doctor regularly. I don't want to lose my mom early and have my child lose their grandma whom they adore.
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I do worry that there are some mental changes going on being she is so paranoid and defensive about going. She has avoided the doctor for many years though, even when she was younger. I know if I can get her to go I will support her and even take her so she can see it is not something scary or negative. It will be nice to know that she is healthy and if there is a health issue the doctor can help address it. Can dementia signs hit around 65? I notice she holds more grudges lately and she was never like that before...she is normally very laid back and easy going.
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I say do whatever works if it will work. It's just that if you take the tough love approach and she digs her heels in further, what are your options? Do whatever you need to make it work out. If she can get past the initial visits, it might open the door for further visits to address her overall health. She may need treatment for blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. What's her blood sugar. All those things need monitoring. I hope she will agree.

I will also add that refusing to seek medical care is sometimes a sign of dementia. It was with my cousin. I would check for other things that could go along with it.

And regarding the flu shot.....good luck with that. I know supposedly smart people with college degrees who refuse to get them. I don't get it.
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I agree with using some therapeutic fibbing to get your mom seen by a doctor, any doctor, who will be play nice, be sympathetic, not talk about her weight and take the time to develop a relationship with her. I'm worried about the slightly paranoid tinge to some of the stuff that you're telling us about her. Paranoia is a symptom, can be a symptom of many different things, from a UTI to full flown mental illness. See what you can do (Obamacare is my personal favorite excuse with my mom, a devoted Fox News watcher) to get your mom to comply with at least one doctor visit.

Your mom and I are the same age. For years, no matter what I went to the doctor for, I was told to lose weight. And yes, it did keep me from getting proper medical care. Imagine what it's like to go to be seen for the flu, post partum depression or a back ache and told that what you need to do is lose weight! I have a team of docs now who don't bring this up. When I bring it up, they meet me where I am. That should be your aim with a new doc for your mom; for her/him to meet here where she is.
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I want to be sympathetic to her regarding her fears believe me but I am to the point that I feel she is being selfish. She has a family that loves her and a grandchild but acts like she doesn't need to worry or take care of her health. She refuses a flu shot as well even though last year her and my dad both caught the flu and were very very sick for almost 2 weeks for full recovery. My dad ended up with a respiratory infection due to the flu. At least he went to the Dr! My mom is convinced and has convinced my dad that the flu shot is unnecessary, gives you the flu, is some conspiracy to poison people... I almost feel like a bit of tough love is in order at this point since she hasn't responded to the sweet approach. My dad has a history of depression and mild bipolar disorder yet she has told him he doesn't need to take any meds. It's so frustrating!
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My Mom has diabetes and had some bad ulcers on her feet. NOTHING would convince her to go see a podiatrist until I found a local Dr who had a video online introducing herself. After Mom watched that video she agreed to see that Dr.

If you could find something similar... perhaps her "fear" is of a "generic" doctor that she does not know.

Have you tried having her accompany you or her husband to the doctor for one of your visits. Maybe that might help??? If she got comfortable with the idea of doctor visits she might then agree to go for herself...
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That is good advice. Perhaps we can convince her to just go for a regular (not well woman) check-up first with a female Dr.
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Anneyd79, it sounds like she may be hesitant to see the doctor for fear he may weigh her, tell her she needs to get on a diet and tell her bad news about being overweight. That really bothers some people. Since you and your dad don't discuss it openly, that only confirms to me that it's a problem.

Some people won't see a dentist either for fear the dentist will say something negative about their teeth, like they don't floss enough.

I think I might look around to find a doctor who would do a Pelvic exam, but is open minded enough to keep the initial visit low key and not lecture her on weight or weighing her. That might be challenging, but perhaps a Palliative care doctor might be an option. If your mom could know in advance that this doctor won't weigh her or advocate diets, then it may soothe her fears enough to get the PAP done. If she likes the doctor enough, then the other issues might be addressed at a later visit.
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She is overweight for sure... not severely and it is not something I say to her. My dad does tell her this and I have spoken to him already about not saying this to her, that there are more positive ways to encourage someone to get healthy. She has struggled with her weight most of my life....on and off diets for many years. My dad really wants her to hike with him but she makes up excuses to not go and won't push herself physically. I just think at her age she still has a good window to turn her health around and live longer with less health problems in the future.
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Are you saying she is overweight or is that your dad? If she's overweight, she may avoid the doctor because she's embarrassed to get weighed. I know people like that. I would engage a doctor who will agree to not weigh her and let her know in advance.

Dr. Oz, says people should not be weighed routinely. If you are overweight you know it. He says people are too embarrassed to see doctors because of it.
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Some people just have issues with seeing doctors. I've encountered it in family members and it's so frustrating.

If begging and explaining don't work, then I might see if she would see a female doctor about something other than the Pelvic exam. See if she will just go and talk to the female doctor about something that isn't as personal such as heartburn, and let her chat with the female doctor. If the doctor is personable, and makes a good impression, then perhaps she can personally ask your mom to come back for a PAP and that she will be the one to do it and make it as comfortable and private as possible. Sometimes it's the unknown that makes it so scary.

Do you mom's friends get medical care? I wonder if they encourage her or do they know she ignores her health.
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Pam, this is my worry. I have severe endometriosis and had a hysterectomy at 33 so she has seen me have 3 surgeries but get better and have better quality of life. When I pushed her to go for a well woman several years ago she said "Oh I had one when you were in grade school and as was fine". I told her that's nice but it doesn't matter or count now... you have to go again! Sigh. Her parents died pretty young..both heart issues. We did get her to go to a heart Dr after my father-in-law suddenly and very unexpectedly died of a massive heart attack about 4 years ago. Heart was good and Dr gave her a good bill of health in that regard so now she thinks she never has to go to a Dr. again.
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I remember reading some advise regarding getting a parent to go to the doctor here on the forums.... it was make up a story like telling the parent that they need to see a doctor once ever couple of years otherwise their health insurance won't pay for any more future care.

That musty smell from your Mom's mouth could be something as simple as not flossing, then using a mouth wash.... my Dad has this issue yet he does go to the dentist once a year for cleaning, exam, etc. It's just very poor maintenance between cleaning :(
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