How can I convince my father to go see the doctor about his dementia?

10 answers | Last updated: Nov 16, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My dad is in denial that he has dementia, though he has been diagnosed by a doctor. He won't see the doctor for further treatment. How can I get him to go to the doctor?

Expert Answers

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's. A Met Life Foundation Journalists in Aging fellow, she writes extensively about health and caregiving; four of her family members have had dementia.

It can take supportiveness, tact, and creativity to encourage someone to have a clinician check out worrisome symptoms. Such evaluations tend to produce anxiety, and few people cavalierly agree to one, especially if they have suspicions that something's wrong but have not shared this with family members.

Some ideas:

* Try calling the doctor in advance of a routine check-up to express concerns and ask about a memory screening. Or use another health complaint (fatigue, arthritis) as a pretext for making a physician appointment.
* Keep it positive. Don't focus on the person's deficits, but rather on retained skills and strengths and what can be gained by early treatment.
* Make it your issue rather than hers. Explain that you would rest easier knowing that the person has the most up-to-date information about how to retain her memory, function and quality of life. You want to her to live independently as long as possible.
* Acknowledge fear. "It's not pleasant to think about and I am a little worried, too. But if we can find out what's behind the mix-ups, then the problem can be treated."
* More ideas:


Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

Did not address the question. He refuses to go to the doctor. This is the problem that I have with my wife. Made an appointment, as soon as we got in the doctors office, and she found out it was for her, she stormed out. She refuses to see a doctor, as she says, "it is my body and I will know if I need to see a doctor". What now??

A fellow caregiver answered...

If your father likes to play games or do puzzles, there are some websites that have some quick tests (i.e. draw the face of a clock at 3:45, or draw cross without lifting the pencil). These might give you a hint, and some leverage in a discussion with your dad.

We are having the same "denial" type issue with my father, he's 90 and his mom lived to 100+, besides his doctor knows who we all are, why does he need a living will? So he refuses to do it or even discuss it. Last time it came up, his response was "there's a lot of greed in this room."

A fellow caregiver answered...

I had the same issue. my mom was angry at the doctor for mis-diagnosing her (in her opinion) so the doctor was written off. however, the disease progresses enough that you can eventually convince your parent. I explained to her that she was going to a different doctor within the same office but then when the time came to meet the same doctor and with a little bit of prep with him prior, all went well and she continues to see him. I would just make sure you communicate the need to not mention the diagnosis on the first appointment. time is always on your side. it took about 6 months to make it happen.

as to his denial and the need for further treatment. you might see if there is a geriatric professional care facility near by - group therapy sessions. i found that it is just a group of elderly people talking about their past and the psychiatrist helping them deal with some of the problems of aging (memory, depression, loneliness, dementia, etc.). but, it could help start the process of medication as your parent begins to feel more comfortable in the setting and realizing that they have some of the symptoms that the other group members do and there are things to try.

Howard3 answered...

Talk to your parent's friends or xbusiness associates, and ask them to do some gentle nudging. It is a little easier if it is coming from a peer, for example, "you know ????, I was having the same sort of problem remembering things, driving, etc, and I went in to ask my doctor about it, and I am glad I did."

Grace5 answered...

I wish that I had the answer to this as I would love for my mother to admit that she has a problem and get help. I did get her to go one time and the doctor put her on antidepressants. My mother is paranoid and also gets agitated. I think the medication would have helped her, but she only took it for two days. I have thought about asking my daughters, who are her only grandchildren, to come in and all of us try to talk to her about some of her issues and try persuading her to go to the doctor. However, she has never been mad and angry with them like she has me, and I really don't want her to get mad at them. The last time I went to the doctor she forbade me to say anything to him and told me to never go back with her. It's all very upsetting and frustrating as I want to help her, but what can you do to a stubborn adult who refuses to see her problem or seek help? My mother has always eaten right, exercised, and taken good care of her physical health, but refuses to believe she has any mental health issues. Sorry I couldn't give you any solutions, but I can certainly empathize with you.

Nola70115 answered...

I wish I could help. I have the same problem with my mom. We need help so badly, but will NOT see a doctor. She has isolated herself from all of her former friends and relatives because of paranoid delusions, so she won't talk to somebody else either. I'm afraid if I go to adult protective services she's just going to turn on me, and I'm the last person she trusts. I'm worried about getting a call from the Sheriff's office one of these days that she's been arrested for threatening a bank teller or a neighbor, because she thinks they're all breaking into her house and night and stealing her mail. I can't foresee anything changing without a big trauma occurring first, and that's only going to make everything harder.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Anger and paranoia seem to be the link in all of these comments. Right now I am trying to get my mother to the doctor. She freaks out the minute she knows the time to go to the doctor is at hand, but is fine when I first make the appointment. She is accusing me of having "ulterior" motives and saying I am diabolical. My brother was her caretaker but he couldn't take it and became critically ill himself trying to care for her. So now me and my family have power of attorney for her medical but are all holding on for hope, but she will not see a doctor. I am at wit's end! I don't know how to deal with her accusatory nature and make her trust me. I feel like she is causing her own downfall at this point by not cooperating with us. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. I don't want to involve Social Services but it might have to be done.

Cynthiahammer answered...

If you find anything out please let me know. I have a father whom is a strong believer, to the point he will not talk to anyone even family members whom do not go to church. He does not go to church. He asked my mom who that Cindy girl is hanging out with Greg. My mom told him that is your Daughter, Greg's Sister. He thought my mom was outside the back porch so he said he went out there to move some chairs. This was past midnight. He fell down and could not get up so my mom called the police and told them he fell and to bring help because he is a heavy man and that he had no cloths on. The other day he called the police and told them that his wife (my mom) had died. The police came over and my mom woke up from her nap with police looking through her bedroom window. He is always throwing things away in the trash. All of our photos of us when we were young, things that can never be replaced. My mom will not do anything about it due to I am assuming her insecurities. My dad is a bully and will not let her talk or visit with us. She has Lung Cancer and is going through Cemo but my dad just pushes her to take care of him. He pees in his pants and in the bed. She is always washing cloths or changing him. He won't talk to the doctor about it and we do not have power of attorney to have him tested. I can not understand after many times my mom had to call for help or him making off the wall calls to the Police, why they can not noticed there is something wrong there. He even went into a Walmart and took a block of cheese without paying for it. He was put in jail and again, my mom went to walmart begging them not to press charges. I think he got off paying a fine. I am so worried that my mom will not be able to care for herself nor my dad and he will continue to tell her to do things for him. I am worried that when she is away he will pack up and leave or like the other day he called the Real Estate agent and told them he wanted to put his home up for sell. My mom called them and told them no. I really need help, our whole family feels he needs to go in a nursing home. Social Service will not help out at all and the police are not helping. They even live next door to a Sheriff.

Morganafarstar answered...

My husband won't go the doctor. He thinks he's fine and that I'm crazy for thinking there's anything wrong with him. I don't know how to get him to a neurologist for a full workup.

At least I found the right thread to talk about this.