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Dad has become obsessed with his health.

(12 Posts)
IrianofWay Tue 01-Dec-15 10:18:03

My parents are 84. They recently moved to be nearer me and to have a smaller garden.

Over the last year or so my dad has come obsessed about his health. It had crept up on him and he is now utterly self-centered - even though my mum isn't in great shape, he can't see further than his own needs. 5 years ago, after being a very healthy active man all his life he had a problem with his heart and had to have a double bypass and a valve replacement. He developed an ulcer within a few weeks and had to be rehospitalised for it to be treated. Since then they have had to tread a fine line with his meds - can't take warfarin because of the ulcer risk. Back in the spring he (possible) had a TIA and now won't' drive. He is very hard of hearing. He also ended up with a permanent catheter after the heart op and he has regular urine infections.

Writing it all like that it seems obvious why his health looms so large in his mind of course. But by and large he is in good shape - he has regular tests for everything and there are no concerns. But he won't accept that he isn't ill - everything is going to carry him off, from a stubbed toe to a cold. He cut his foot on some broken glass recently - it seemed OK. I turned up with my children to visit them on Sunday and he grabbed my arm as I came through the door and demanded I take him to the minor injuries clinic as he was convinced his foot was infected and 'your mother won't take me!'. Turns out mum simply didn't know where it was and she hadn't refused at all. He insists on my mum taking him to the GP almost every day it seems. His last GP actually sat him down and told him that he needed to be more measured about his health, that he was in pretty good shape considering.

It's wearing my mum to a frazzle and squeezing all the joy out of both their lives. They have moved to a lovely bungalow in a really friendly village and now that they have got rid of their massive garden they have time to relax and enjoy themselves. I go over there most days to help but my children don't want to go because it's such a miserable stressful place to be.

I am a depressive myself and have wondered if he might also be suffering from depression. Can this be a symptom of dementia? I am all at sea TBH but I want to help.

Any advice?


CMOTDibbler Tue 01-Dec-15 10:41:45

Gosh, your dad does have a lot going on doesn't he. At 84, I can see how he could be very anxious about his health and it being the focus of your life is very common in the elderly - especially men who may really fret about leaving their wife alone.

One route would be for your mum to talk to their GP about this and see what they think could be done. You could go with her to support her in what is a difficult conversation.

FWIW, my dad is nearly 80 but very frail, and suffers terribly from anxiety on his own and mums (she has advanced dementia) behalf. What has really helped him is that the integrated locality team who are there to keep people out of hospital have made him charts of who to contact when, especially with regard to urine infections (they taught him to use the thermometer) and are there to chat when he worries.

IrianofWay Tue 01-Dec-15 11:11:43

Thanks CMOT. Will the GP talk to my mum about this without my dad being present?

florentina1 Tue 01-Dec-15 13:16:28

Your GP will speak to you both. Sometimes the only time a GP cam get a true picture of what is happening is from the relatives. Elderly people can sometimes articulate what is going on, but cannot always see the effect their behaviour has on others.

I have found it much easier to talk to health professionals when the patient is not present. it is impossible to be totally honest when the relative is right beside you.

CMOTDibbler Tue 01-Dec-15 13:26:24

The GP may not discuss your dads health with you specifically (though obv as your dad attends frequently with your mum they may do), but your mum can tell them about how your dads anxiety is affecting her, and then they can think on what to do before your dad sees them again.

ProfYaffle Tue 01-Dec-15 13:32:22

No real advice I'm afraid but sympathy. My fil is the same (he's 79) and he too was a very fit and active man (as in 20 mile bike rides) until very recently. He hasn't had the serious health issues your fil has but has relatively minor, routine ops etc. Dh receives melodramatic "I won't see my next birthday" type phone calls which isn't ideal as dh has his own health issues to deal with.

I think it's the contrast between being fit, possibly believing this would guarantee a healthy old age and then the shock of being faced with your own frailty and mortality. Not sure how to deal with it though confused

IrianofWay Wed 02-Dec-15 09:54:07

Thanks for all your replies.

it is such a hard thing to deal with. I know I am going to lose on or both of them in the next few years but was hoping the time we had would be good. Of course what I feel is nothing compared to what mum and dad feel. It's all a bit shit sad

Seeing them tonight - might try to talk to mum about it.

lljkk Wed 02-Dec-15 10:57:02

It sounds like his anxiety needs to be treated as one of his health problems, iyswim.

I so sympathise. My formerly laid back sporty dad has become increasingly anxious & sedentary. Those things are now top of my list of stuff I want to avoid in my own old age.

IrianofWay Wed 02-Dec-15 14:02:53

Me too lljkk!

suzannecaravaggio Sun 06-Dec-15 12:09:34

Thing is how can you avoid it lljkk, at what point did these formerly sporty people become sedentary, is there a way that they could have better managed things?

Perhaps we need to plan better and accept that physical prowess will decline say in our later 70's so that we don't over shoot and knacker ourselves more than we need to?

(apologies for derailing Irian it must be difficult for you sad )

IrianofWay Sun 06-Dec-15 21:10:34

My father was active until quite recently. He was never sporty but he walked for miles, did plenty of hard physical work in the garden. But he took that for granted - never treasured that activity in itself.

Two things happened over the last few years -

1. he had the health issues and he got scared - always having been hale and hearty he was terrified of his own body. Because there was always minor problems after the operations he never felt secure.

2. He lost his last dog. the dog was the thing that kept him active in a small scale way on a regular basis. He was heartbroken and convinced himself he would never had another one.

3. He (and I hate to say this of my dad) discovered the allure of ill-health. People make a fuss of those who are ill - he liked the regular traffic of nurses and GP and consultants.

I am aware of all of these things and I WILL NOT let it happen to me. I run three times a week, I walk my dog regularly and I do these things not just because I enjoy them but because I am aware that I have to do them or risk the consequences. I think we need to treasure our bodies and the things they can do - not over-protect and coddle them.

If I could do one things for my dad, I would buy him another dog, not a lively puppy, but an older dog who was more laidback and calm but who still needed a daily walk. But I haven't quite got the guts to do it.

suzannecaravaggio Sun 06-Dec-15 21:18:29

thanks for sharing that Irian.

thing is we look at our parents and see that things they do might not be in their long term best interests but they seem resistant to any advice from us...well mine do.

I can think of people in my parent's generation, who although they were active, didn't do exercise for the sake of exercise and just became more sedentary as they got older

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