wikiHow to Convince a Reluctant Relative to Visit a Doctor

Many people dread going to the doctor for a variety of reasons. If this is true for someone you care about, and it is likely that they have a health problem that should be treated, the following steps might help to reduce their reluctance.


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    Investigate the symptoms. There is no need to pester your relative about seeing a doctor if you don't have a reasonable cause to believe that there is a health problem. Why do you think they are in need of medical attention? Do they lack appetite? Are they in pain? Do they have trouble sleeping? Are they consuming large amounts of over-the-counter medication, like allergy pills, painkillers, or cold medicine? Make a list of the symptoms and research them on the internet to find out which conditions might be causing them.
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    Be reasonable. Don't let your findings scare you. Any symptom can have a variety of causes, some harmless, some dangerous. Try to be thorough in your research and rule out far-fetched possibilities. Narrow down your suspicion to those conditions that match the symptoms you observe the most.
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    Find the right doctor. If you suspect your relative has a head cold, for instance, they should probably see an ear, nose and throat doctor, while someone with persisting digestive issues would be better served visiting an internist.
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    Understand their mindset. Why does your loved one resist seeing a doctor? Talk to him/her about it.
  • If they reply with a gruff "It's not a big deal!" or "Doctors are for pansies!", there might be a deeper-seated issue behind it. Maybe (especially if they are older than you) they have had unpleasant experiences with doctors in childhood. Consider that in times of more authoritative education, doctors would frequently treat children without much empathy or consideration. Older people often have a fear of doctors as a result of that.
  • If your relative is not a white male, understand that they are statistically likely to have had negative experiences with doctors and medical staff. There are strong biases among medical professionals which have been evidenced in studies (mostly for North America). For example, African-Americans are less likely to receive adequate pain medication because their pain experience is often dismissed, and women are often told their symptoms are due to stress, and no further investigation is made.[1] Doctors often believe that women as a group tend to exaggerate symptoms, so they don't take them as seriously as male patients. Fat patients are often perceived as lazy, uncooperative, and physically repellent. Doctors are less likely to perform examinations that involve touching the patient, and often don't offer treatment at all beyond telling them to lose weight.[2] It is not surprising that your relative will not want to spend time and money on a doctor's visit if they are belittled, dismissed, or ignored.
  • Then again, your relative might be a lot more anxious than you are anticipating. They might secretly worry about a serious illness that may be revealed if they see a doctor, or be uncomfortable with the thought of undressing for an examination. Try to speak to them calmly and empathize. If you can find out why they dislike the idea so much, proceed to the next step. If they won't open up more, proceed to step 6.
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    Work around the problem. For example, if the worrisome point is to undress before a stranger, find a doctor who is of the same gender as your relative to make it less unsettling. If they worry about being treated like a lifeless object, find a doctor who has a reputation for being very kind and engaging, find a fat-positive health care provider in your area (there are lists online) and so on.
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    Be open about your reasons to persist. If you are irritating your relative with your attempts to convince him/her, let them in on your feelings. If you are worried they might be suffering from a serious illness, and they are of old age, tell them that you are afraid of risking to lose them, if that is true. Let them know that you want to do all you can to make them feel healthy and comfortable, and that you don't want to waste an opportunity to make life easier if it is as close by as a doctor's office. Appease their fears by reminding them that it might be a simple condition that can be easily treated, and it would reduce a lot of stress to just take care of it.
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    Let them know that you care about them. Remind your relative that you are not trying to pick an argument, but that you care about them and have their interest at heart. Communicate that you are acting out of love. Don't feel resentful towards them if they don't agree with you.
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    Know when to lay off. If all your work comes to no avail, give it up eventually, assuming that you are dealing with an adult relative. Unless they are mentally ill or their capacities are limited due to other circumstances, you cannot force someone to see a doctor if they are not in mortal danger. It may be very difficult, but you have to respect their decision, even if you find it to be unreasonable or dangerous. If you nag at them, they might eventually hide their symptoms from you simply to avoid the argument.
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    Be aware and responsible. If their health suddenly declines drastically, seek medical attention at once. Inform emergency staff about the preceding symptoms you have observed and any pre-existing medical conditions and allergies your relative might have that you know about.


  • It may be that your relative is uninsured and cannot afford to pay for medical care. They may fear going into debt and being sued. If they aren't old enough for Medicare, see if they qualify for Medicaid. Search online for low-cost clinics in your area.

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Categories: Family Life | Health