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Listen Up: Getting Your Aging Parent to Listen to the Doctor
Marissa Salvesen

By: Marissa Salvesen on March 3rd, 2015

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Listen Up: Getting Your Aging Parent to Listen to the Doctor

assisted living  |  tips for caregivers  |  Aging & Caregiving

bloodpressureAlthough doctors don’t always tell us what we want to hear, their knowledge, education and training mandates that we listen to them.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes easier said than done. If you’re struggling with an aging loved one who doesn’t acknowledge his/her doctor’s advice, here are some things you can do: 

The Root of the Problem

Maybe your parent is habitually stubborn, contrary, or just plain old cranky. In this case, you may be used to him/her pushing back against authority.

But in other cases, a loved one’s sudden refusal to take a doctor’s advice is more perplexing. Either way, open lines of communication are essential to remedy the problem.

Initiate a conversation on the subject in a comfortable, non-threatening environment. Begin by asking, “I’ve noticed that you’re not taking your doctor’s recommendation. Why not?” While this discussion may initially be awkward or difficult, the ensuing dialog may yield valuable insights into your parent’s mindset and feelings.

Communication is Key

Now that you have a better idea of why your parent is disregarding the doctor’s advice, you can counter these excuses with valid reasons why following medical recommendations are important, including the potential health benefits.

If your loved one needs more than the doctor’s opinion, offer information from a variety of sources to confirm that the treatment is valid. Or, take a different approach: explain that it hurts you to see your loved one suffer so it’s important to you that your aging loved one follow the doctor’s advice.

Another technique? Use examples of older friends and family members who are actively under a doctor’s care. Known as the “bandwagon technique,” this positive peer pressure can yield positive effects.

Whatever method of communication you use, be patient, calm and prepared to listen: your loved one will be more open to the discussion if you validate his/her feelings instead of denying them.

The Right Fit

While frequently changing doctors threatens continuity of care, it is important to find a physician whom your aging loved one trusts. If you haven’t yet found the right health care practitioner, consider a geriatrician who has specialized experience with elder care and who is uniquely qualified to help you deal with this dilemma.

Speaking of trust, it’s also helpful if you and other family members develop a positive relationship with your loved one’s physician.

Also, before your aging loved one’s next visit, inform his/her physician about your loved one’s resistance. Doctors may be able to prepare to present the advice in a way designed to elicit a more compliant response.

While there are many reasons why your aging loved one might prefer not to follow his doctor’s advice, the truth is that doing so is not optional if health and quality of life are the desired outcome. Identifying the reasons for the problem and treating them in partnership with other family members and your loved one's physician is time well spent.

 Key Takeaways

  • While this situation may be frustrating, it’s also dangerous: your aging loved one may be missing out on important medical care.
  • An open conversation with your aging loved one can yield valuable insights.
  • Respect and trust are essential - both between patient and caregiver and patient and doctor.

About Marissa Salvesen

My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.