How can I convince my elderly father to let me take him to the hospital?

A fellow caregiver asked...

How can I convince my elderly father to let me take him to the hospital? He has fallen and it took him some time to get back to his feet. I am told that he has a severe circulation problem with this feet and ankles, revealing blackened skin. He is fatigued and sometime confused. I live a distance from him, but want to go to his home and bring him to the emergency room. I am told that he will not go easily.

Expert Answer

Kay Paggi, GCM, LPC, CGC, MA, is in private practice as a geriatric care manager and is on the advisory board for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She has worked with seniors for nearly 20 years as a licensed professional counselor, certified gerontological counselor, and certified geriatric care manager.

One of the most effective ways of assisting your parent is to ask for his help. Be careful to avoid creating an adversarial situation, where it is you versus him. Promote an advocate relationship, where he is the driver and you are helping him.

You might start by trying to speak with his doctor, or his doctor's nurse. Explain that you are a distance away and have been told that he has a circulatory problem and fell. Ask for the nurse/doctor's opinion of what should be done. They will probably advise you to go to the ER, and you can ask if there is a doctor there that your dad's doctor knows you should ask for, and ask that the ER records be sent to your dad's doctor.

Now you can go to your father and tell him that his doctor has advised you that he needs to be seen in the ER, and you are concerned. If he refuses, tell him that worry over his condition is keeping you awake at night, or making you sick, or whatever, something close to the truth. Ask for his help in relieving your anxiety. Make it your problem and ask for his help. Since his physician has told you he needs to be checked, you will worry until he goes. Generally, this is effective with parents.

Now, once you have started, you should continue. Make a list of all the medications in his house, including the dosage and instructions, and when they were filled if they are prescriptions. Note the over the counter ones, also. Keep this list. Make a note of any medical allergies that he has, too, so doctors will know not to use them. Expand this list to include all his surgeries or serious illnesses. Doctors in the ER need to know what other conditions he has. Making this list make require more than one trip. Your primary job this time is to keep him to the ER.

Your father may be reluctant to go to the ER because he is afraid of what will happen. The docs may want to put him in the hospital, and his friends have died there. Or, he may be afraid that he cannot live independently any longer and doesn't want to deal with it. He may need your reassurance that you will help him along with way, that he is not alone. The first step is to find out what the problem is, and get started with a treatment.