You want the people you love to take good care of themselves, but sometimes persuading them to do so is an uphill battle.
If your partner refuses to see a doctor or a dentist, you may be frustrated (and rightfully so) — but you’re certainly not alone. Thirty-five percent of U.S. adults didn’t visit a dentist in the past year, according to a 2013 Gallup survey. Forty-four percent didn’t see a primary care physician in the past year, per a 2018 Medicare Advantage survey. And overall, men are less likely to go to the doctor than women.
So how do you convince your loved one to go see a doctor or dentist? We talked to medical professionals and a therapist to understand why someone might be hesitant to go, and got some tips on how to get them in motion.
Reasons People Avoid Going
They don’t have time.
Life is busier than ever, making it difficult for people to carve out a window in their hectic schedules to get to an appointment — especially if it doesn’t seem urgent.
“Most people don’t want to use vacation days to see the doctor for routine things when they feel healthy, such as physicals or follow-up for chronic problems that may be under control, such as high cholesterol,” Dr. Linda Girgis, a family doctor based in New Jersey, told HuffPost.
It’s too expensive.
Even with health insurance, visiting a doctor can be pricey, depending on your plan. Without insurance, costs can soar.
“They may not be able to afford the fees, copays and deductibles associated with the office visit and turn to Dr. Google to make sense of any symptoms they are experiencing,” said Dr. Wilnise Jasmin, the medical director of behavioral health at the Chicago Department of Public Health.
They’re scared it’s going to hurt.
This is especially true for people who dread going to the dentist — whether it’s the scraping during a teeth cleaning or getting a shot of local anesthetic for a procedure.
“People do not like pain,” said Dr. Nicole Khalife, a New York City dentist. “I’ve heard people describe tooth pain as worse than childbirth. Nine times out of ten, fearful patients have had a traumatic experience in the past, so it’s important for the provider to listen to his or her concerns.”
They’re scared of receiving bad news.
“Just like some people are afraid of getting bloodwork done for fear of finding out they have an illness, people are afraid of going to the dentist for fear of finding out they have cavities or gum disease,” Khalife said.
Others may avoid going because they don’t want the doctor to reprimand them for their poor habits.
“And they don’t want to hear about the consequences if they don’t make changes, like ‘You need to lose weight,’ or ‘You should be flossing every day,’” said Kurt Smith, a therapist in Roseville, California, who specializes in counseling men.
They don’t think they need to go unless there’s a major issue.
Some people only go to the doctor or dentist when they’re already in a lot of pain or something seems seriously wrong. They may not see a reason to go in for less pressing symptoms.
“For example, they may be feeling tired but just attribute it to their stressful lives, when there may actually be a more serious underlying problem,” Girgis said.
How To Convince Them To Go
Help them make the appointment.
Lend a hand by finding a reputable doctor who accepts their insurance (if they have it). Offer to accompany them to their appointment if they’re nervous, or make things even easier by scheduling your appointments together.
“I frequently see spouses at the same time,” Girgis said. “This convenience often makes it easier for someone to bring their partner along.”
Show them the research.
If nagging them again and again to see a doctor has been fruitless, it may be time to arm yourself with some compelling facts.
Your partner may not realize, for example, the overall health benefits of good oral hygiene or the importance of getting a suspicious mole checked out as soon as possible.
“I recently saw a man who has been snoring for years,” Girgis said. “When his wife told him he had symptoms of sleep apnea and presented him with some online references about the serious consequences, such as hypertension and strokes, he became concerned and came to be evaluated.”
Tell them that addressing the issue now will prevent bigger problems later on.
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A minor health issue that’s easily treatable now could develop into something potentially more serious or debilitating if they wait too long to see a doctor. And even if they’re seemingly in good health, going for routine checkups can help establish a baseline for various health metrics, said Jasmin, who has a background in preventive medicine.
“Seeing a doctor, especially a primary care physician, will allow for catching conditions earlier, which often means having more effective treatment options that can extend their quality of life,” she said.
Remind them how their health decisions affect their loved ones.
If you know someone who’s reluctant to visit a doctor or dentist, perhaps they need to see that neglecting to take care of their health doesn’t just affect them ― it also affects you, their family and their friends.
“Asking ‘What will so-and-so think?’ can cause them to consider the negative view someone important to them might have,” Smith said. “Not displeasing or letting down a parent, especially mom, sibling, close friend, boss, etc. is important to many people. We all want others to think positively about us, so this can be a real motivator.”
If you have children together, ask your partner if avoiding the doctor or dentist is behavior they’d want to model for their son or daughter.
“People often won’t do difficult things for themselves, and unfortunately doing it for a partner won’t be reason enough often either, but their kids is another matter,” Smith said. “Nearly every parent loves their kids and deep down wants to be a good parent. These feelings can sometimes motivate people to do things they don’t want and wouldn’t otherwise choose to do.”