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Convincing elderly relative to see GP(28 Posts)
My FIL has been showing signs of memory loss and confusion for a few months now. As a family (me, DP, SIL1, SIL2 & BIL) we desperately want to get him to a doctor, but we're at a loss as to how to convince him to go. He's never physically ill and distrusts doctors in general. His DF had dementia and it's his worst fear. He is a cantankerous character at the best of times tho we love him dearly. He last saw the GP approx 20 years ago. We've tried dropping hints and talking about just going for a general check up or accompanying MIL to her appointment (We would alert the GP prior as to our worries). Nothing works. I've googled how to convince him and even asked social worker friends, but everything & everyone says that he has to go willingly to a doctor as he has capacity (he definitely does).
How can we get him in front of a doctor before he puts himself or someone else in danger? MIL is very meek and has vetoed any sort of family intervention type conversation/confrontation.
Has anyone had any experience of this and can offer advice on what worked for them?
Many thanks in advance & apols for any typos (wrestling with a toddler!).
When you say putting in danger - is this driving? Leaving hob on?
Very difficult situation.
I had this same problem with my mum. She’s 88 and still living independently. There have been many instances to suggest there may be early onset dementia, including not remembering the name of one of her two grandchildren when his birthday was written in her diary.
I started trying to talk her into going to see the doctor in the middle of last year. She was aware her memory was fading but didn’t accept it was bad enough to need to do anything about it. In October she said she would go in January, but January came and went and she still wouldn’t make an appointment.
In March she was telephoned by Social Services for a review and her feedback report arrived in April. She had no recollection of the review being done.
I rang the doctors surgery and asked for a telephone appointment with her doctor this was arranged for a couple of weeks later. I explained my concerns to her doctor and after discussion he agreed to write inviting her for a general check up. Being “old school” she willingly arranged the appointment as it was what the doctor had asked her to do.
She is now some way through the dementia diagnosis process, she has had a urine test, blood test and last week had a CT scan. She still has no idea that I was involved in arranging the initial appointment.
In a similar situation our relative's GP agreed to write a letter asking him to come in for a general check up (eg over 70s check up) - not sure if all GPs would have time or agree to do this though, or if your FIL would go in these circumstances.
I was also thinking you could try and arrange a home visit but that might be difficult as your MIL is not on board (and again some surgeries might reserve these for urgent matters or housebound patients).
It might be worth calling his surgery to see what they can offer, obviously they won't be able to discuss him in particular but I'm sure they deal with this a lot.
Thank you, everyone, and to those going through similar situations.
He's not driving at the moment (says he can't be bothered but I think he knows there's 'something wrong' and is nervous) but, yes, I am concerned about the future and that he may leave the oven on/get in his car/wander off on foot/etc. We'd obviously rather intervene way before then. I like the idea of attempting to discuss it with the GP, even if they may not be able to say much due to confidentiality or whatever. I'll also speak again to MIL to urge her to support the family in breaching the subject with FIL.
My MIL had a fall... Got everyone on board very quickly.
But not ideal.
Getting the GP to call the person in for a 'general over X age check up' is often the ploy used, but unlikely to work if the person is stubbornly opposed to seeing the doctor at all.
However I would just point out (from experience) that diagnosis is no magic bullet. Medication is available for Alzheimer's but doesn't always help, and if it's Vascular dementia then AFAIK there's no medication for it. All diagnosis may achieve is to slap an official label on what you are very well aware of anyway.
Is he aware that there are drugs these days which, if started early enough, can make a huge difference to the progress of the disease. I've seen them in action, and I've seen people 30+ years ago before they were available. Big difference. Also much better support these days.
Do you think he would be willing to take part in a casual conversation about his parents, starting with general memories but eventually introducing his own father's dementia and comparing the differences between then and now? Do your research first though! Discuss it MIL first to ensure she is informed and on side.
The Alzheimer's society may have some info that would be useful for you.
Regarding your immediate safety concerns.
If you are concerned he might drive (dangerously)) is it possible to hide all the car keys at a family members home. Or does MIL need the car? I'm not a driver, so happy to accept this might be a rubbish idea!
Is it possible/affordable etc to replace the hob/oven with a safer one, under the pretence of the existing one being faulty/unsafe? (Eg: exchange gas for an induction hob).
Of course it's possible he has an undiagnosed urine infection causing the confusion, which could be easily treated. Just possible ...
Worth asking him to take a test for this?
Well...MIL spoke to the GP yesterday who confirmed what we thought, that is that he needs to be seen by a doctor himself voluntarily before anything can be done. So, some family members gathered yesterday evening and we tried to speak to him about it very gently. He erupted in a rage and threw us out, saying there's nothing wrong with him. He then went to stay at his cousin's house for the night. MIL has apparently tried to raise the subject privately in the past with him and got a similar response but hoped with others there he may listen. No chance.
So now we are waiting for the dust to settle today, hiding the car keys and asking a different family member to try again in a few days.
We know there's no cure but there could be meds to ease some symptoms and a diagnosis is often a passport to support for carers and other services in the area. It would also help with future planning of needs.
Sigh. Just feel deflated, frustrated and desperately sad for FIL & MIL.
Is he involved in his local church or in any other societies? And if so, is there a leader there who could talk to him? My mother will pretty much ignore anything I say that suits her, but if the priest tells her the same thing, then she will go do it. Yes, it is incredibly annoying when I told her the same thing a week previously, but most importantly, it works.
I'm afraid 'some family members gathered' sounds like a posse to bully him into going to the doctor's. You already knew this was a touchy subject and his reaction can hardly be a surprise. Please don't get someone else to 'try again in a few days'. You need to find a different way of dealing with this - he clearly realises what you are up to and isn't stupid.
Unfortunately he doesn't have contact with anyone apart from family, no.
It wasn't a surprise, no. Me posting here is part of trying to find another approach. If we had any other ideas, we've tried them already and unfortunately it hasn't worked. We also took advice from older adult mental health professionals before we spoke to him. But obviously it didn't work so we do need to find another way, pf course. What would you suggest, @wowfudge?
We had the exact same situation with my Dad. The only thing that got him involved with the medical profession was when we called the ambulance after he had clearly had a stroke.
No advice I’m afraid. It’s the start of what could be a horrible and very difficult couple of years
Im with the earlier poster who suggested a medical appointment might not achieve a great deal - and clearly the likely breakdown of his trust in you all could be worse. I would think practically. Hiding the car keys is a good one. Calendar/lists? Some kind of safety cutout on the gas, or a switch to electricity? Ready meals? Frequent reminders to drink (dehydration lands people in medical trouble quicker than anything else)? Snacks around so he remembers to eat more? One person at a time talking to him, slightly more pauses when you speak?
Do they need to move or have someone move in with them?
Ah, so if we change our thinking and approach from "must see doctor at all costs!" to "ways we can safeguard him ourselves"? Yes, I can see now that that's maybe the most productive and kind course of action for the time being m
Sorry, I don't know why I didn't realise that was the point being made earlier by previous posters (I blame being knackered!)
I'm in a similar boat OP. Luckily the person concerned doesn't drive so isn't putting innocent people at risk (I would definitely be confiscating their keys if that were so) but I do worry about the future and i am frustrated that support and services cannot be accessed, because there is no formal diagnosis.
This was the problem we had with my late nan after she hit 90.
She was hallucinating & clearly had Psychosis but thought it was all real.
'Luckily' she developed cellulitis which was so unpleasant that she finally agreed to see a doctor who secretly also assessed her mental state.
Sad to say she ended up being sectioned for her own safety at 91.
Then we were told by the sectioning psychiatrist that she had been diagnosed with dementia which was causing the Psychosis.
Unfortunately the nurses at the mental hospital didn't notice her swallow was at risk & we didnt know so she was eating & drinking normal food & drink in the very bent over position that she had developed.
She was covertly given an anti-psychotic which got her personality back to normal but sadly then died of a mixture of aspiration pneumonia & heart failure. This was a year ago.
But prior to the cellulitis it was impossible to get a doctor near her as she just didn't trust them.
If she had trusted them things wouldn't have deteriorated so badly that she'd have needed sectioning (which was awful because the police had to come out).
So no solution but you have my every sympathy!!
Does he take any kind of regular medication? If so maybe he could be called in for a medication review? Our GP insists on this annually. Don't know if all do this though.
If I offended you with my earlier post OP I'm sorry - that wasn't my intention. He's likely to be scared if he has realised something isn't right - not driving suggests he accepts there are some things he shouldn't do anymore. He might come to accept more over time or be in denial. His defensiveness suggests fear and he may be worried you want to put him in a home/take him away from the familiar, which is comforting to him.
It likely that he's already aware that his memory's failing. Getting relatives together trying to persuade him to see GP is likely to make him feel worse, he needs to know he can still make his own decisions.
We're going through this with my grandmother. At 92 her memory is gradually getting worse, I know she's aware of it because I can see her anxiety when she forgets close relatives names or gets them wrong but the last thing she would want is someone to point it out to her or tell her to see GP.
She manages well living in her own flat in sheltered housing. There are lots of safety features, alarms etc and she still feels she's independent.
Thank you, all. Especially those who are going through or have gone through similar. It's awful.
@wowfudge thanks, that does make sense. I'm overwrought and over sensitive with it at the moment. I'm a natural 'fixer' (or 'control freak'...!) so it's important to stop and think about why we've taken this approach when it's not working
Sorry to not have replied to everyone's kind and helpful comments. I'm mulling over them all and am really grateful, especially to those who have shared their experiences
So apparently, he's now saying that he'll "consider" going to see the GP! This is huge! Ok so it may not happen, but the climb down from apoplectic with rage to conciliatory is really quite something.
The sun is shining again
I'd leave it for now, when my nana got her dementia diagnosis she really became afraid, didn't believe her own memory and became very very scared. It made her go downhill very swiftly I believe.
Leave him until it is causing a danger.
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