By Sarah Jane Duffy, Boomerang staff writer
June is a month to show our dads how much we care. It's also Men's Health Month, and one way to show your love for Dad is to encourage him to go to the doctor's office. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that men are 80 percent less likely than women to use a regular source of health care. Many men go to the doctor only when they feel sick or have a medical emergency, a factor some experts believe could be one reason why women live longer than men and why men are more likely to die of serious diseases.
While I was a caregiver for my great aunts, I found it easy to discuss their health and hygiene. I was even comfortable bathing them when they required assistance. But, talking to my grandfather about his health was a different story. He didn't like to discuss those matters with women - or men for that matter. He didn't really care to discuss them with his doctor, either. He felt he could handle things himself.
For many people, discussions about their health have an emotional component. It could be pride that convinces Dad that he knows what's best for him, or it could be a fear that serious ailments could lead to a loss of independence that keeps him from seeing the doctor. However, regularly scheduled medical care is a big part of preventing cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and many other conditions that can seriously impact independence and quality of life.
At a minimum, Dad should get an annual physical exam by his primary care physician, including blood pressure and height/weight checks. Depending on his age and risk factors, his doctor may recommend other screenings to find and manage changes in your father's health. When broaching the subject with Dad, here are some tips for making the conversation a little easier and more productive:
- Explain your concerns. Tell Dad you are worried and that you want him to be as healthy as possible. Discuss how seeing a doctor, even if he doesn't feel sick, can help improve his quality of life.
- Understand his condition. If you already know what your father's health issues are, research his diagnoses and get as much information as possible. The more informed you are, the more comfortable he may be discussing things with you.
- Encourage small steps and don't expect drastic changes. Dad is unlikely to overhaul his diet, activity level and long-time habits after a single conversation. Getting Dad to the visit the doctor is great first step that could lead to better habits later.
If your father does not currently have a primary care physician, then likely it has been far too long since he has seen a doctor. Talk to Dad about his preferences, and help him identify a doctor that he feels comfortable with. Would he rather have a male or female doctor? Is location a factor? Dad also should be getting regular dental, vision and hearing examinations, so be willing to discuss those options as well.
Talking to your father about his health can be a difficult conversation, especially because of the role reversal both of you will feel, but it is a conversation worth having and one you don't want to regret not having.
Image courtesy of Flickr.com user, mrsdkrebs
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