How to get my mom to a doctor?
February 2, 2006 2:10 PM   Subscribe

How can I get my mom to go to the doctor? Her eyesight from her Type II diabetes is getting considerably worse, but she won't tell the doctor because she's afraid they'll take away her drivers licence again.

My mom was diagnosed with Type II diabetes several years ago, but pretty much refuses to do anything about it. She barely takes care of her heart condition as it is. But now her eyesight is getting progressively worse, and I'm getting progressively worried.

She refuses to tell her doctor about the problem because she's afraid they will take away her drivers licence again. (It was taken away once before because due to medical reasons, but quickly reinstated once the problems were under control).

My mom's independence is very, very important to her. She's under the impression her quality of life will be reduced to nothing if she cannot drive. My parents live in an area where public transit is essentially non-existent, and moving is not an option. She knows in her current condition she probably shouldn't be driving, but does anyway. Granted, she only drives during the day now, and only in areas she's very familiar, because she admittedly can't read the road signs. I've gotten quite mad at her, asking how she'd feel if she killed someone else as a result, etc. She knows I'm right, but she just won't go to the doctor.

I think my dad agrees with me, but he can't get her to go to the doc either. And he gets annoyed when I push the issue, because as he says, "You don't have to live with her. I do."

So, my question (sorry for the long-windedness). How do I get her to tell her doctor? Yes, they might take her licence away; I don't know if she'd pass the sight requirements or not. I suspect not, but I don't know for sure. On the other hand, if she talks to the doc, they could help her keep it under control. But she just won't take that risk. I'm really worried about her on the road, as well as potential innocent bystanders.
posted by cgg to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
If shes not safe to drive then you really should step in and do something before either she gets herself killed, or someone else.
posted by lemonfridge at 2:20 PM on February 2, 2006

Are you saying your mom won't go to any doctor at all or that she won't tell her doctor she can't see? If the latter, call the doctor before her appointment, and tell him/her that your mom can't see.

If she can't see, she should lose her licence, if her eyesight can't be corrected. I'm sure it sounds cold and unfeeling and I understand her fears of losing her independence, but she doesn't have the right to risk people's lives which is what she's doing.

I think my dad agrees with me, but he can't get her to go to the doc either. And he gets annoyed when I push the issue, because as he says, "You don't have to live with her. I do."

Remind him that if she keeps this up, he may not have to live with her, either.

And do address the quality of life issue. Can you get your mom some sort of pre-paid account with a cab company so she can feel like she can go out where she likes when she likes without having to wait for anyone else or drag others along?
posted by duck at 2:22 PM on February 2, 2006

This is really, really tough, and my heart goes out to the bunch of you.

Unfortunately, this might be a situation where she's going to have to figure this out the hard way, i.e., by having an accident. You've tried persuading her, and she acknowledges the danger she's posing to others -- she's not in denial -- but it's not stopping her. Short of "turning her in" in some way, like tipping off the police*, you may have to just keep talking the talk and wear her down by sheer dint of repetition. (Your dad needs to suck it up and participate, too, none of this, "I have to live with her" nonsense. Like duck said, remind him that if the worst should happen, he won't have to live with her anymore.)

*This might not even be a viable option. But you might call the DMV of your state or province and see if there are any laws about driving with impaired vision that could apply. Since she's not under the influence of any substance, though, I don't know that there's anything a police officer could do if he didn't see her swerving or displaying any other potentially dangerous behavior. And of course, if you did resort to something like this, you and your father would have to be prepared for the emotional fallout -- she'd certainly feel betrayed and humiliated. Tread carefully, and good luck.
posted by Gator at 2:26 PM on February 2, 2006

I have a dim recollection of a program which existed in one state whereby unqualified licensees such as your mother could be referred anonymously for retesting...

Ask your DMV whether such a program exists in your state.
posted by The Confessor at 2:36 PM on February 2, 2006

If she is not managing her diabetes, being able to drive should be the least of her worries.
She'll have a far greater loss of independence if she ends up needing to have one of her feet, or more, amputated.

You need to do something, though. If she was only putting herself in danger it would be one thing, but she can kill someone else out there on the road. How would she feel if she hit and killed a child crossing the street? How would you?

Worst case scenario you can petition the court to have her declared incapacitated (or whatever your state's version is). She's not paying attention to very serious medical problems, and her behavior potentially poses a threat to both herself and others. yes, it will be ugly, but if she is that much of a danger, it will be less unplesant than her getting in a serious accident.

While I do think Gator is right, and she will most likely come around if she learns it "the hard way," it would be tragic if the lesson was learned at the expense of her life, or someone else's.
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:40 PM on February 2, 2006

I believe The Confessor is correct, at least there's something like that here in WV...
posted by jcruden at 2:41 PM on February 2, 2006

I don't know if scare tactics are the way to go on this, but my friend's uncle avoided the doctor for this very same reason and ended up going blind. Then lost a leg, thereby completely eliminating any independence he had. If your mom doesn't get her diabetes treated, way worse things than losing her DL are going to happen.
posted by lunalaguna at 2:42 PM on February 2, 2006

I would tell her doctor, anonymously if you like. He can casually tell her that he's requiring a vision exam as part of her usual checkups. That's what I'd do if I were in your position, I think. I'd feel guilty about it, sure, but not nearly as guilty as I would if she hit someone and I hadn't told the doctor.
posted by luriete at 2:43 PM on February 2, 2006

absolutely ask her to go to her physician.

apart from the obvious danger to herself and others while driving with poor eyesight, the fact that her vision is crummy suggests that her diabetes is and has been out of control or poorly controlled.

you can google for "diabetic retinopathy." short n simple version: uncontrolled diabetes/high blood sugars will damage the eyes and kidneys. while it is entirely possible that her worsening eyesight is independent of her diabetes, it's likely that it's due to it. and if her vision is affected by it, she's in dangerous territory, as it's probably affected other organs as well.

uncontrolled diabetes _will_ lead to dead eyes, dead kidneys and dead limbs. ultimately, of course, it's her choice. if i were her physician, i'd ask her to submit to some tests in the strongest possible terms.

best of luck. you should be lauded for yr concern not only for her health, but also for her wishes.
posted by herrdoktor at 2:48 PM on February 2, 2006

Cgg's profile indicates it stands for 'canadian geek girl' so there's good money on her parents being in Canada.

The driving is definately a concern and what worries me most is that someone with degenerating eyesight is probably going to still be able to see other cars and things longer than they will be able to see pedestrians and cyclists, the people with less protective metal surrounding them. However if she's ignoring her health in general I doubt you'll have much luck convincing her to worry about other people - she's not worrying about herself in the big picture, much less others.

Putting on my most cynical and ruthless hat, I'd suggest you sit her down, tell her how much you love her and are worried about her and want her to continue to be around and make sure you're crying. Toss in something about worrying she won't get to see her grandchildren graduate high school/whatever. Sob.

One of two things is going on. Either she's not seeing the big picture and thinking of her continued existance/mobility/being out of jail a year from now or she's depressed to the point where doing anything seems hopeless. So play dirty and apeal to her motherly instincts to help you. Push her to talk to her doctor about controlling her diabetes and possibly depression as well.

Good luck. It's so hard to deal with loved ones who aren't taking care of themselves.
posted by phearlez at 3:00 PM on February 2, 2006

It sounds like she is going to the doctor, but not telling him about the eyesight problems? I'm not clear as to why a doctor faced with a diabetic who is not taking the most terrific care of herself wouldn't automatically test her vision. How often does she see her doctor and how much does she like him? Maybe you could get her to see someone for a second opinion on her condition?

Beg, cajole, bribe, freak out, reason, and guilt her into it. Maybe your dad can play good cop. It's tough for our folks to get to a point where their health makes them vulnerable, and guess what....we're going to have just as much stubborn pride at their age. (Especially those of us with a healthy streak of it now. And I can't get my mom -- healthy, but getting up there in age -- to go to a doctor either.)
posted by desuetude at 3:01 PM on February 2, 2006

Since when do doctors narc on patients to the DMV? Or is the concern that there will be a papertrail in the doctor's records if she ever has to go in front of a judge again? Either way, I don't really see how getting treatment for her condition would necessarily lead to having her license revoked.

Definitely go for the scare tactics... losing a foot/leg or going blind is going to pretty much put an end to this "independance" she currently enjoys.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:54 PM on February 2, 2006

I second and third everything everyone said about your mom's health situation. I have found that sometimes you just gotta be a bit of a bully, or do a good cop/bad cop routine to get elderly people to take this stuff seriously.

The independence thing is HUGE though. The car represents independence, so there's a lot of baggage around getting seniors to stop driving. This happened to a relative recently, and it was tough. But, the image of him running over some kid was just too vivid for people to stand around and not try their hardest to do something.

One thing that helped was that everyone chipped in for taxi vouchers, and other relatives came forward to offer rides on a regular basis. Ultimately, someone tipped off the DMV, who invited the relative down for an eye test and took the license away right then and there.

It was a hard blow, but they've discovered that the lack of a car doesn't mean the end of the world.
posted by jasper411 at 3:57 PM on February 2, 2006

Don't forget that if she hurts or kills someone while driving with impaired eyesight that he and your mother will probably be sued. Losing a driver's license is better than losing everything.
posted by clarahamster at 4:08 PM on February 2, 2006

Don't forget that if she hurts or kills someone while driving with impaired eyesight that he and your mother will probably be responsible for hurting or killing someone while potentially being injured and possibly killed. Who the fuck cares about the potential lawsuit?
posted by Jairus at 5:32 PM on February 2, 2006

Since when do doctors narc on patients to the DMV?

Depending on the state (Oregon example), we're required to.
posted by gramcracker at 7:14 PM on February 2, 2006

You can narc on her to the doctor, to establish that she really is losing vision.

You can narc on her to the licensing agency, to get her license revoked.

But at long as she regards driving as more important than her health, hers and others safety, and maintaining a happy relationship with her husband and offspring, she WILL continue to drive regardless of your interventions. The only difference is that she'll be angrier, and sneakier, about it.

Focus on altering the mindset about her priorities and health, s well as getting her to trust that you and dad are committed to doing whatever it take to preserve her independence and mobility. It's critical that she get honest with her doctor, and start heeding his advice. Or else that uncontrolled diabetes is going to get irreversibly bad very quickly.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:28 PM on February 2, 2006

My Dad has diabetic retinopathy. Going to the doctor early meant that his vision was saved with laser surgery, and now he can drive during the day, still play golf (and even find his own ball if it's really sunny), read large-print books, and watch TV... all things he was told he may never do again when he started the surgery.

Facing potential blindness is no fun. Not doing anything about it only damns her to certain blindness.
posted by bobot at 5:21 AM on February 3, 2006

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