For a variety of reasons, senior men may be prone to avoiding doctor visits – even when experiencing health problems. Even though many men put off seeing a doctor, sometimes for many years, focusing on senior men’s health is very important for health maintenance, early detection of illness, and disease prevention.
Unlike women, who are often taught to see doctors annually or as problems arise, men are far less likely to see the doctor on a regular basis. A Cleveland Clinic survey studied 1,174 men and found that only half admitted to receiving regular medical checkups. The study also showed that 72% of men would prefer to do household chores, such as cleaning or doing yardwork, rather than going to the doctor.
Why Do Men Avoid Seeing the Doctor?
According to an Orlando Health hospital system survey, many men refuse to see a doctor due to feelings of discomfort. They may be afraid of receiving a difficult diagnosis or dread having to take uncomfortable medical exams. Other sources of discomfort may involve not wanting to be weighed or being told to alter their diet or to make lifestyle changes. Some men may feel embarrassed and want to avoid uncomfortable questions or topics of discussion, such as erectile or urinary issues.
Attitudes about seeing the doctor may be different between men and women too. Some men may have been raised to believe that discussing health isn’t manly or may even be a sign of weakness. The topic of health may be so uncomfortable, that many men won’t even discuss health issues with their close friends.
How to Talk to Dad About His Health
It can be difficult to broach concerns about a loved one’s health, but it is especially hard when trying to help your own parent. It may help to remember that your dad raised you and is used to being the expert on all matters, health or otherwise. It can be difficult for a senior to relinquish that level of responsibility and expertise to their adult child. It also can be challenging to listen, and stubbornness may be involved. No matter what personal dynamic is at play, it’s still important to start the conversation. Nightingale Homecare, the top provider of home health care in Sun City, AZ, shares the following senior men’s health communication tips:
- Plan your approach. When starting a conversation with an older loved one, it’s important to approach him in a loving manner and to show that you’re concerned about him. Make sure your dad or aging relative is comfortable, and avoid phrases or a tone that may sound accusatory or threatening, as these will shut down the conversation immediately.
- Be patient. A parent may be frustrated even having this conversation, and change likely won’t happen overnight. It may take a few tries before you’re able to get through to him. Give it time between conversations, so you aren’t nagging him. No one likes to be told what to do, and it’s especially hard for an older adult to listen to his own child. Also, patience can help you avoid confrontation or heated arguments. If the conversation is upsetting, take a break to avoid saying anything hurtful, and wait for another time to try again.
- Ask questions. Does dad have any concerns about his health, or is anything worrying him? He could be afraid of getting older or that any unusual symptoms may indicate larger health issues. It can be hard to face the fears of aging and our own mortality, and sometimes it feels easier to avoid the discussion altogether. Asking gentle questions may help open the dialogue.
- Focus on facts. Be specific when discussing any health concerns you may have, and use examples that you have observed. A parent may be falling more, having trouble performing a regular task, or struggling to get around the house safely. Even if it’s difficult to bring up these topics, concrete examples may be harder for your parent to refute.
- Find solutions. To avoid an unpleasant conversation, many seniors may come up with excuses to explain away a concern. If a loved one refuses to go to the doctor, is there a common reason given? Does dad not want to miss weekly breakfast with friends? Is his schedule too full? Is it too hard to make an appointment? Is transportation an issue? Whatever the problem, there’s likely a solution you can offer to help make a doctor’s appointment seem like a more viable option.
- Avoid becoming the parent. Dad is used to being the one in charge and being responsible for his own life as well as yours. Make sure your approach is gentle and respectful of his abilities and expertise. Telling your dad what to do will likely only make matters harder and defeat the purpose of your conversation. It also helps to remember that your dad is an adult and ultimately in charge of decisions that affect his life and health.
Even if the first attempt at broaching the topic of senior men’s health doesn’t seem successful, take a little time, and keep trying. It is important for the men in your life to be seen regularly by medical professionals. Symptoms they’re denying may be a sign of other health problems, and early treatment may be vital for preventing progression of disease.
The health and safety of older adults is a priority of Nightingale Homecare, the trusted provider of home health care in Sun City, AZ and the surrounding areas. Contact us online or by phone at (602) 504-1555 to learn more about how our experienced, trained caregivers can help the older men in your life remain safely and happily at home.