The Secret To Getting Dad To See A Doctor

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Lovable as he is, there is nothing worse than a stubborn father. Especially one who thinks he's immune to a visit to the doctor.

For Chris Ang, a 21-year-old who works in marketing, her dad hasn't seen a doctor in years.

"According to my Dad, the cure for everything is to drink more water or to do a salt rinse," Ang says. "It's frustrating! I remind him that he's already paid for healthcare through paying taxes, and that health professionals do go through education and training."

And she isn't the only one.

When dads avoid stethoscopes and exam room tables at all costs, they're also dodging possible measures that could undercut and eliminate preventable diseases. The Canadian Men's Health Foundation reports that 70 per cent of men's health issues can be avoided. But it's a tough sell, when Statistics Canada reports that men are much more likely not to have a regular doctor than women.

Older men especially face a myriad of unique health concerns, including an increased risk for heart disease and prostate cancer.

With serious consequences on the line, why do dads ignore signs?

Dr. Dina Kulik says childhood fear could be a factor in fatherly medical absenteeism.

"It's how they’re brought up," she says. "Many parents stop bringing their kids to regular checkups when they’re very young, so men develop a phobia or a discomfort with going to the doctor."

Kulik, a pediatrician and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, finds that dads are willing to bring their kids in for check-ups, but may avoid it for themselves.

This avoidance can lead to untreated conditions worsening. More than 38 per cent of men only go to the doctor when they're seriously sick, the American Academy of Family Physicians reports.

Traditional masculinity may also be to blame for dads thinking they're too tough to get sick.

Men who believe old-fashioned gender expectations, such as suppressing emotions and not showing weakness, were found to ignore health issues longer than women did.

In a study affiliated with the University of Montreal, Canadian men over 55 worried most about impaired movement. Of those surveyed, only 13 per cent underwent screenings or received information about possible risk factors.

For other men, there is a cultural stigma in formal medicine. They may prefer home remedies or feel like they may be a victim of patient profiling.

So what's the cure for a stubborn dad?

Kulik recommends giving them a taste of their own medicine: treating dads as kids.

talk to dad

Tactic: Remind dad he's a role model

Role reversal works in showing dads of all ages that practicing healthy behaviour has a positive impact on their kids and grandkids. So if a parent wants the young ones to take care of themselves, it would be wise to remind them to be a role model and do the same.

drugstore doctor

Tactic: Explain in detail how a doctor will help

Too often, dads will discount doctors as unnecessary for what they perceive as minor aches. Breaking down exactly how preventative diseases can be stopped in their tracks through a doctor's visit is a good step towards helping dad realize the clinic isn't just a last resort destination.

"People need to be educated about what's important about their health and why," Kulik says. "We do it with children all the time. Saying ‘we need to go to the doctor and get a vaccine’ is not as valuable as saying ‘this vaccine will prevent you from getting sick.' Explaining is more empowering."

For petulant dads who don't want to be bossed around, they can be assured that any treatment and medication a doctor suggests will need to be administered with his permission.

drugstore doctor

Tactic: Make the trip a fun and easy routine

For dads with grudges against doctors, it helps to remove anything that might remind him of those clinical walls. Booking with a doctor who works out of a drugstore could make the journey seem more mundane. It can also be a convenient shopping opportunity, where you can buy any necessary medication there with him.

grandpa kids

Tactic: Bring up his family

Often, a father won't be able to come to terms with his health unless he's able to compare himself to the health of someone close to him.

If his mortality is a hard pill for dad to swallow, having an honest conversation with him about his health might be difficult. If that's the case, bringing up family history of certain diseases and talking to him about how family members were helped by doctors can be useful. It could help to schedule appointments as a family, so he won't feel singled out.

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