Why doesn't Dad take his health seriously?

Tmbur44 asked...

My father has had five strokes and a heart attack over the past ten years. Two of the strokes happened last year, within a four month period.

He smokes a great deal, but I have got him to cut down to four packs a week versus a carton a week. Although I know it is not much, but for him, it is a lot. He eats very good, lots of fruits and fresh vegetables. But, my stress comes from him thinking that his health is a laughing matter. Each time something happens he laughs or jokes about it, it is almost like talking to my kids when they were young.

I am the middle child of three and I am the caregiver for him since he had the last stroke. With him not taking his health serious, I am constantly frustrated and scared.

How do I cope with this? How can I help him to understand what is going on.

Expert Answer

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

It sounds like you need to get very tough with him.  I agree with you, this is no laughing matter and it always pains me when a parent is not taking their health seriously, leaving it to their children to press them on the issue.

I think the first thing you need to do is get rid of the cigarettes.  It is common knowledge that smoking can cause lung cancer and emphysema, but I find it particularly concerning that the average American seems unaware of the damage they are doing to their arteries by smoking.  If he continues to smoke, he will continue to damage his arteries and have strokes and heart attacks.  If you really want to make this "not a laughing matter", I would start by throwing away his cigarettes and telling him you will not buy anymore.  Next, I would enlist the help of your doctor to lecture him at an appointment about the need to stop smoking and the need to take his medications as prescribed.  His doctor may also be able to prescribe him a medicine that curbs the craving of the cigarettes.

Get tough.  It is selfish of him to act so care-free about this serious issue.