How can I convince Dad to see a doctor?

1 answer | Last updated: May 23, 2010
Kate r asked...


My father's health is starting to become a concern. Generally a very fit and active man he has had bouts of stomach troubles. He has been to the doctors who recommends an endoscopy but my father refuses to have one.

I believe the issues stem from a rich diet and maybe the glass of whiskey that he enjoys from time to time. Unfortunately my parents live in a different country from me and so phone calls or email are the only solution to talk.

I have expressed my concerns but he's stubborn and refuses to let me know that he is really ill, by saying that he's fine and it's all in control. But my mother told me he was sick again just this week. How can I entice him to take further action.

I very much value your help.

Expert Answers

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public health from the University of Michigan, and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current clinical practice focuses primarily on geriatrics. He has written and contributed to many articles and is frequently invited to speak on psychiatric topics, such as psychiatry and the law, depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide risk and prevention.

From what you say, it sounds like he does not want you to be aware of his difficulties. This could be because he wants to protect you, it could be part of him refusing to acknowledge even to himself that there may be something wrong with his health, or he may be making a choice that he doesn't want to know what is causing his stomach problems. Whatever the reason, it sounds like there is little you can accomplish dealing with him over the phone or via e-mail. You tried that route and seem to have struck out. I presume your mother has also attempted to have frank discussions with him, without success. I would suggest you have a discussion with all the close family members. As a group, it may be helpful to talk about who he is most likely to listen to. Who has been able to help him deal with any conflict in the past? I would suggest that person have a face to face encounter with him in the very near future. That person should express their concern, ask him why he is not getting properly diagnosed and treated and see what he says. I would suggest keeping the conversation gentle and caring. He may not respond to the first discussion, but with continuing symptoms and a positive discussion, he is likely to follow-up shortly.

One other thing to consider is whether the doctor has done a good job explaining the issues to your father. Does this doctor have a good relationship with him? Is the doctor sensitive and kind? Did the doctor listen to any concerns your father may have expressed? Perhaps a visit with a different doctor would be helpful. It might be helpful to have the family person he is most likely to listen to, go with him to the doctor. They could then discuss what they heard and hopefully together, make a decision in his best interest.