How can we convince Mom to see a doctor?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 12, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Hello, my name is Tom and I'm sixteen. My mom has been sick for a couple of years.Both me and my dad know that there's something seriously wrong with her but she always denies it and refuses to go to a doctor. Both her parents were dead even before she met my dad and we don't think she has any living relatives that we can ask.

She's in bed almost 24 hours a day. We bring her food and she goes to the bathroom. The rest of the day she sleeps or just lies in her bed. Her room is always dark and she hates it when the light is on. Sometimes when she wakes up she doesn't remember who we are and she panics. Sometimes when her memory is 'fuzzy' (as she calls it) she gets really aggressive and my dad has to hold her down.

We first thought it could be dementia but she's normal sometimes and we also found something called Pick's disease... Could this be it?

Please help us.

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Reading your letter, it sounds like you and your dad are really struggling to take care of your mother, who is obviously unwell. I know that you are worried about her. I should also mention that this would be a tough problem for anyone to deal with, let alone someone of your age. I do not know how old your mother is or if she had any health problems in the past. So, I am going to write down what I thought about as I read your letter:

1) What is the reason she says that she stays in bed all day? Does she complain of pain? 2) Is it possible she is depressed? Sometimes people with depression can have memory problems, even become psychotic and aggressive. Was she ever treated for a psychiatric disorder?
3) Is she able to do things herself, but just won't do it? Does she eat and go to the bathroom by herself?
4) Does she take any medications, either prescription or over the counter? 5) If you and your father didn't bring her food, what would she do?
6) Has she ever been addicted to drugs? 7) Was she OK before this happened? Did she work?

So, what can I suggest? My first thought is that you should try and sit down and really talk with your father. Tell him you are worried about your mother, and see if he can give you any thoughts about what is going on with her. Does he know why she won't go to the doctor? Does he have any thoughts on what is going on with her? Your father, if he has the funds or insurance, can try and get a health care provider that does house calls to come out and see her. He can try contacting the Department of Health in your state/city or calling her insurance company to see if that kind of service is available.

However, if your dad is also like you and not sure what is happening with her, perhaps you can go talk to your school guidance counselor or school nurse and tell them about your situation with your mother. Perhaps there is some kind of state or government agency that they can get involved that will send someone to see her.

My last thought is that perhaps you and your father could tell your mother that you refuse to take care of her anymore unless she agrees to go and see a medical professional. DO THIS WITH CAUTION!!! I would be very careful about doing this, as this may make her angry/combative, or she could withdraw even more.

The bottom line is that your mother needs help. I hope that you are able to work something out with your dad so that your mother can get the help that she needs. Good luck!