Dear Driving Me Crazy
My Dad is a retired physician. He is making me crazy because he does not have a doctor. He had one years ago, but when that doctor moved out of town, he never replaced him. This winter was really tough on all of us, including my brother and sister because he didn’t let any of us know that he was not feeling well over the course of a couple of weeks. He ended up hospitalized for the full-blown flu and pneumonia. This was no joke because he is in his 80’s. I think about if he had had a doctor if he might have avoided the emergency room run and the hospital admission. He was not a particularly good (really bad) patient. What can I do to get him to have a doctor?
Dear Driving Me Crazy,
Your Dad has made a choice not to have a physician. We do not necessarily know why. Is it so simple as the fact that there isn’t anyone he knows that he would want to go to? Is it so simple that he doesn’t like group practices? Is it so simple that he feels that he can diagnose and treat himself? The reality is that he may be able to diagnose but he probably can’t write prescriptions anymore. So where does that leave him? Waiting for symptoms to become so bad that he really only has the choice to go to the Emergency Department. The alternative is probably not what he is seeking.
You didn’t mention a spouse. Does he have one or is there someone significant in his life? Is he “in relationship?” I am going to guess not because I think that you would have mentioned it. You indicated that the weight of his actions has had a direct effect on you and your siblings. Is it possible that you might want to consider a different path of communication with him? The accustomed way of asking him directly why he doesn’t have a doctor has gone nowhere. You may have said, “You know Dad, it isn’t smart not having a doctor. You are getting older and you really need to have one.” That statement may not be what he wants to hear from you.
Is it possible to mention to him that you would like to understand more about why he has made the choice to have no physician. State that it would be helpful to you to learn from him. That way, you are showing respect and you are “owning” the need. Could it be that he had an experience in earlier years that was so negative that any thought of having a doctor triggers something from the past? Often it is helpful to look at how his spouse may have died. Was there anything in particular that he may have observed that somehow pushes his buttons now? He may not even be able to dwell on this line of thinking. But you can’t be sure until you try going there. You might just sit with him while he thinks about this. He could be in denial about something from an earlier time in life. It could have to do with how other physicians and he related throughout the years when he was practicing? Were those collegial relationships supportive and helpful or in some way could certain doctors have treated him in a way that has turned him off to accepting advice from one?
You may find some piece of information that can be talked about. Maybe not. But not trying is in a way colluding with him in this path of behavior which affects you and your sibs directly. Give a conversation a try. What do you have to lose? He may decide to consider a physician and you might be able to take a breath knowing that he will attend to any signs of illness or a medical event sooner.