How do I persuade my husband to see his doctor?
August 8, 2018 12:11 PM   Subscribe

How do I persuade my 62 year old scientist husband to see his doctor for recent dizziness and SOB? He is 62 and plays tennis, bikes to work, fomer athlete, no history of any health issues, and last 6 months he gets dizzy spells during tennis, is short of breath. Now dizzy at home and work. When I suggest doc visit he gets irritable and asks me to leave him alone. I think he's scared and angry at fate. Should I just wait for an ER crisis?

His Dad's first heart issues appeared at age 60, then stroke at 72, death at 73. I don't want to lose this man anytime soon. Married 31 years.
posted by evenolderthanshelooks to Human Relations (32 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Does he have any friends who he might listen to? Sometimes people need to hear it from someone other than their spouse (unfortunately).
posted by hydra77 at 12:18 PM on August 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm not that old, but I tend to avoid going to the doctor in what sounds like the same way. The most effective way to approach this with me is a simple "I would like you to go" from my wife. The longer version of that is, "even if it's nothing, I'd like a doctor to be the one to say that, and this is why we have insurance. Do it for me."

I'll admit it maybe took us too long to get to the point where she knows to phrase it like that and I know that I should do what she asks when she does, but it works for both of us.
posted by fedward at 12:24 PM on August 8, 2018 [18 favorites]

Is this a case where you could schedule the appointment just put it on his calendar?
Would he refuse to go?
posted by sciencegeek at 12:40 PM on August 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

"this is why we have insurance"

Seconding this. My wife just got me to schedule a checkup using this line.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:53 PM on August 8, 2018 [8 favorites]

Good advice so far! Other lines are, just humor me. You have been dealing with this for a while so what is the harm in getting it checked out?

What are you afraid of? and, we can deal with it, it is better to know now.
Or, if it was me, you would want me to see the doctor.
posted by Boyd at 12:54 PM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I get the impression you have already asked him about this several times and he is now shutting you down when you bring it up again. Can you ask in another format? For example, if you’ve always brought this up verbally, can you write him a text or a letter or an email?
posted by samthemander at 12:57 PM on August 8, 2018

My parents have been married for 41 years.

I grew up listening to my dad beg my mom to see a doctor for years and years. She finally relented some time after my brother left home.

Turns out she had a thyroid condition that had gone undiagnosed for years. She got put on drugs and felt SO MUCH BETTER for the first time in such a long time that she realized hey, maybe?? going to a doctor regularly isn't?? the worst thing???? and started going in every few months for checkups and follow ups, etc.

About a year after the thyroid diagnosis they found stage 0 breast cancer during a routine screening, one she would not have gotten had she not decided a few months earlier to actually start going to the doctor. They caught it so early she was cancer-free one small surgery and 2 radiation treatments later.

The first visit dramatically increased her quality of life, the next saved it.

So if you need an anecdote to share with your stubborn husband, go ahead and share the one of my stubborn mom who avoided dying by finally listening to her spouse and going in for a physical.
posted by phunniemee at 12:58 PM on August 8, 2018 [12 favorites]

Also, when you write to him, consider asking him if he will go purely as a gift for his wife, to ease your fears.
posted by samthemander at 12:59 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

he gets irritable and asks me to leave him alone

You can at this point turn the conversation to why he's irritable - follow up on what's bothering him, if he's worried about what the doctor will diagnose, or doesn't want to look dumb for presenting vague symptoms, or if he's mad at his primary physician over something else, or embarrassed about feeling wobbly, or doesn't like people asking personal questions or being fussed over, or what. I often am an awful rude mess when there's something irritating me and I'm not completely sure what it is; I think the better you can define exactly what's bothering him, the more easily you can address it.
posted by aimedwander at 1:02 PM on August 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

These symptoms could be symptoms of heart or blood pressure trouble, or other things. Once or twice I might ignore it, but consistently, over a period of six months? With a family history of heart trouble? He really needs to get checked out. It sounds like he hasn't been to a doctor since (long?) before this arose, so he should definitely go in ASAP. Tell him the truth, that you're very worried and need him to do this for you. Make it a bet — if it turns out that there's nothing wrong, you'll do X, where X is as lavish as he might desire. You don't have to worry about actually having to do X, because it's not going to be nothing.*

* I'm not saying it will be horrible or even life-threatening, but with those symptoms, at his age, it will definitely not be nothing.
posted by ubiquity at 1:12 PM on August 8, 2018

"I've made an appointment for you tomorrow. Even if you don't go, we have to pay for it, so as a favor to me, please go."
posted by DarlingBri at 1:15 PM on August 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Another idea to add to those above that might be worth trying if he responds better to outside authority: if your insurance provides a consulting nurse line, call it and describe his symptoms, maybe even do it with him in earshot. The nurse will tell you to go see a doctor ASAP and sometimes they even help schedule it. Might be the boost he needs?
posted by purple_bird at 1:18 PM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

My husband is also doctor-stubborn. (And used to smoke.) He's gotten better at it at my urging AND ironically because I'm chronically ill so doctors are sort of a thing we're around a lot now. I also tend to have to make appointments for him - he gets a weird anxiety around it.

Things that worked for me:
"If I was feeling like this and complaining of these symptoms, wouldn't you want ME to see a doctor?" He will likely answer yes. Hopefully that will make him realize that it's important because he wouldn't want you to ignore your health so he shouldn't ignore his.

Also, full out bluntness. "I don't want to see you die or get sick because you didn't go to the doctor. I don't want to see you feeling like this if something can help. I'm making an appointment and you have to be honest with them about your symptoms."

You could also possibly accompany him.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:28 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

With my dad, after lots of beating around the bush, as we say, the thing that finally worked was a very direct and insistent approach: "We are not going to just sit around here waiting for you to have a heart attack and die right in front of us. Whatever's wrong can be fixed. Get your shoes on and let's go." He very reluctantly agreed. We went to the emergency room and he had bypass surgery less than 24 hours later. Then he lived to be 93.
posted by MelissaSimon at 1:33 PM on August 8, 2018 [22 favorites]

Irritability could be a symptom. The dizziness sounds bad enough that he probably shouldn't be driving. I think it's time to be very insistent and tell him if he doesn't go to the doctor, you will take action. Tell him love him and want him to be around. It may be something very manageable, it may be something life-threatening. But it has to be checked out.

My sister is 67, in good condition, cycles, used to do triathlons and still does a 10 every year, just had a heart attack. Not a warning, minor, whatever, but serious blockages. She survived, but not everybody does.
posted by theora55 at 1:51 PM on August 8, 2018

I asked my dad to get a sleep study and get his apnea treated for my Christmas present a couple of years ago. Use birthday or anniversary or whatever holiday is closest.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:10 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Anything caught now is going to be easier to treat than if it's not caught until later. And even if it's something he decides not to treat, at least it is known and other alternatives can be investigated.

Which means you could also try the brutal approach of 'i'm scared of what this means if you don't have it investigated. So if you're not going to go to the doctor let's make sure your will and powers of attorney and healthcare are all up to date. How long again did you say you wanted to be left on the machines? What treatment is or is not acceptable if you collapse and I have to decide? '

Based on that we just got back from visiting my elderly parents and it was pretty much the above harsh kind of a conversation before they would agree to discuss anything similar about their own wishes and directives.
posted by beaning at 2:21 PM on August 8, 2018

I inform my doctor-resistant husband that I am going to harass him about it every. single. day. until he agrees to go to the doctor and when the doctor confirms his profound belief that it's NOTHING, I will stop harassing him, and that it's totally up to him whether he wants to listen to me hassle him about it every single day or just make the damn appointment and get it over with.

And then I do it. He usually gives in by day 3 because he knows it's going to keep going.

This is so successful another relative asked me to harass my brother on the regular until HE went to the doctor. So I called him every day and left him a voicemail saying, "Hello! I'm just reminding you you need to go see the doctor about your arm injury! I'm going to remind you every day until you go!" Took two days.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:47 PM on August 8, 2018 [13 favorites]

How do you know about his dizziness and SOB? I'm guessing it's because he told you. He told you wanting a particular response. He might not even know what that response is but "Go to the doctor." isn't it. My guess is he wants care from you first. Or reassurance. Once he gets that, you can suggest a doctor but not with any pressure on him to follow through.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:48 PM on August 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

When I suggest doc visit he gets irritable and asks me to leave him alone.

It's putting your foot down time.

"I want you to go to the doctor. I want you to go today."

...and when he cracks the sads:

"No, I won't leave you alone. I've had enough of these temper tantrums. You're 62 years old, not 5. Going to the doctor is what adults do when they regularly get dizzy and short of breath. I no longer care that you think I'm nagging you about it. It's no longer up for discussion. I've made you an appointment, and you're going to keep it."

Deploy your angry face.
posted by flabdablet at 2:58 PM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

When my dad (similar age and background) had those symptoms, it was because he had a stenosis in (I think) his coronary artery, and he needed to have a stent put in. He was definitely super grumpy about being confronted by his mortality like that, but being a medical doctor he knew what was up and went along with it. It's been a couple years and he's fine now—riding his bike and hiking and doing all his normal activities. Left alone, the condition would have been debilitating and eventually fatal. Tell your husband that he needs to put his big boy pants on and go to the doctor, because this is probably serious but likely fixable, and if he ever wants to feel normal again this is what he's going to have to do.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:51 PM on August 8, 2018

Show him this thread.
posted by argonauta at 4:06 PM on August 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

I think making the appointment will get him out the door.

If you do get him to go, you might want to tag along if you suspect he might minimize his symptoms, e.g., it's hardly anything, I got short of breath one time, wife is nagging me, etc., etc. A good doc will recognize that for what it is, but docs are often in a hurry and not paying as much attention as they should.
posted by tuesdayschild at 4:56 PM on August 8, 2018

I work as a full time health professional but I understand going for a check up can be very confronting.

As your husband is a scientist you can approach it by presenting him with facts. List out some of the risk factors i.e family history of heart diseases. Give him the statistics of males dying of a heart attack or a heart related condition from 50 to 60 years old. Give him the reasons why you think his symptoms are affecting his quality of life.

He needs to go for a check up.
posted by azalea at 4:57 PM on August 8, 2018

Since he's a scientist, can you egg him into gathering data? Maybe propose a hypothesis or two?

It could be that coronal artery stent thing. Or it could be something wildly different. Maybe his neck muscles are messed up: he's overusing some and underusing others, which interferes with his vestibular system, and, relatedly, when he smacks his racket hard into a tennis ball he sometimes clenches his larynx, making it hard to get enough air.

Detachment and curiosity are great replacements for anger and fear. Maybe you can develop a pet theory of your own, and coax him into being curious. Or perhaps your breakfast-table speculations will strike him as so poorly thought-out that they must be refuted, and the doctor's appointment an attractive means to that end.
posted by feral_goldfish at 7:18 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I used to be like that, and I’m sort of a scientist-type in my outlook. What changed my attitude was a change in perspective. My ego was all wound up in my health. Not seeing the doctor was a matter of pride. I’m stronger than that! Now I think of my body like a car. Some repairs are minor and I know what to do. But if the engine’s knocking or the car’s stuttering up hills I’m taking it right into the shop to have it looked at by a qualified mechanic. I also ”take it into the shop” yearly for a checkup because I want this beauty to keep purring for two or three hundred thousand miles.

In other words, I disassociate myself from my body. Here’s me, standing over here. And there’s my body over there. It's got a problem, not me. But I'm damn well going to fix it.

Presto. No more defensiveness.
posted by mono blanco at 8:01 PM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Can you set up an appointment for the both of you for a check up at the same time? Maybe if you approach it from the view point that it's a team effort no matter what happens, it might alleviate some of the stubbornness and fear from his perspective.
posted by IndigoOnTheGo at 4:34 AM on August 9, 2018

Not your doctor... With those symptoms he could have severe aortic stenosis and drop dead unexpectedly tomorrow. Just to underline that these are potentially severe symptoms and very much warrant a visit to his doctor ASAP.
posted by snoogles at 6:20 AM on August 9, 2018

My dad refused to go to the doctor for SOB, and the result was collapsing with massive bilateral pulmonary emboli. Waiting for the (potential) emergency is not a great idea. As it turns out, my dad is ok, but it was a really close call. Earliest caught is least long term consequences; if being angry at fate is the issue, why not address the early symptoms now, before they potentially lead to a real fate indeed?

Also, I'm a nurse, and from that perspective I can say: any health care professional will be happy to see and will take seriously a patient coming in with SOB. A for Airway is the first most important thing we monitor in acute care settings. SOB can have many causes... Not all are serious or deadly, but some are. This is what doctors are for! Not sure if hearing this would help your husband, but please feel free to pass that feedback on if you think it might.
posted by snorkmaiden at 6:52 AM on August 9, 2018

Thanks to all. This man is nonverbal in the emotional dept. I did show him post and thread and he went silent 4 hours. I'll try the data collection approach plus gentle repeats.
posted by evenolderthanshelooks at 11:36 AM on August 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Do what Eyebrows does - every. single. day. Do it, what's he gonna do, divorce you??
posted by clseace at 1:40 PM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I know I'm a bit late to this, but as someone who hates going to the doctor due to multiple bad experiences in the past, a lot of it is anxiety.

It's very hard to take that first step when facing your own mortality; in fact, I imagine part of the reason he is as fit as he is, is his way of trying to 'stave off' the health problems in his family. A lot of people, in my opinion, view diet and exercise as this health panacea-- and they can be very scared and shaken when health issues occur, in part because of this. Denial plays a part too.

So as someone who has experienced the aversion and fear going to the Doctor, the best course of action for me is allowing me to be vulnerable, and taking care of me.

So, you know, sitting down and asking is he afraid? What is he afraid of? What does he think will happen? What does he think will happen if he doesn't go? Get him to visualize not the Doctor's appointment, but coming home from the doctor-- I feel like sometimes when we're scared, we build events like GOING TO THE DOCTOR in our mind, and forget that these events are a blip, and they end. Then making the appointment for him. Then just being there-- does he want you to go there with him? Does he want you to hold his hand in the waiting room? Does he want you to go in the office with him and talk to the Doctor for him? Then being able to do these things.

I know we're all adults, that it's tedious to take care of someone in this way, but I think in the case of something potentially serious like this, what works with me is gentleness, kindness, reassurance and help -- not nagging. Being 'hand held' is what lets me conquer that fear and see it isn't that bad. After the initial appointment with the help of my family, making others on my own was a lot easier for me because I'd gotten over the initial stumbling block and it wasn't as scary.

I don't know, but that's how I'd want to be approached if it was me. Good luck.
posted by Dimes at 8:18 PM on August 10, 2018

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