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Caring for a loved one living with dementia has various distinct challenges. One of these is treading the fine line between providing support and ensuring your care receiver has agency over their decisions. But, there are times their choices don’t seem to be entirely in their best interests.

Among the most common examples of this involves their medical care. To you, it may seem clear that a chronic illness, injury, or new symptom your loved one is experiencing requires attention from their doctor. But they may be hesitant to do this for several reasons. It would, of course, be wrong to try to force attendance in the first instance. As such, you’ll find yourself in the difficult position of convincing them.

Let’s take a look at some of the important factors to consider in this situation and some approaches you could take.

Understand the Root of Hesitation

In most cases, you’ll find underlying concerns are influencing your loved one’s reluctance to see a doctor. It is both respectful and a practical route to solutions to better understand the reasons behind their avoidance.

You may find the hesitancy comes from a financial perspective. Particularly as people get older and finances get more strained, the prospect of paying for a doctor’s appointment can be stressful. Not to mention that living with dementia can make such issues occasionally more confusing.

Take the time to calmly but frankly talk to your loved one about these financial elements. Though many Americans have concerns about healthcare expenses, there are practical methods to avoid medical debt []. This can be as simple as collaborating with your care receiver in researching their insurance coverage to establish the extent of coverage, as this can be reassuring. Gaining an understanding of the in-network providers can also make certain your loved one doesn’t receive unnecessary or unexpected bills.

Really, it comes down to gaining a little more knowledge. Be patient and give your loved one’s space to explain their hesitancy. They may feel they’re not getting the right level of care or empathy from their current doctor. It may be a psychological and emotional issue in which they feel like an unnecessary burden. Taking the time to talk, listen, and learn is in everyone’s best interest.

Be a Reassuring Influence

It’s only natural to feel concerned that the person you’re caring for is hesitant to go to the doctor. After all, gaining help early is the key to effective treatment. However, it’s not always wise to base your persuasion on the potential consequences involved. Telling a loved one with dementia their health could get worse can make the situation scarier and more stressful rather than prompt them toward medical help.

Instead, you should aim to be a reassuring influence on your loved one’s decision-making. Your compassion can be a powerful tool in helping someone with dementia navigate difficult situations []. Acknowledge their reasons for hesitancy, but also focus on the positive outcomes they’ll experience from medical care. This isn’t always easy, particularly when their concerns seemingly don’t have a tangible basis and are predicated on emotions. Be careful not to dismiss their reasons for hesitancy. You should recognize that they feel their concerns are valid, even if you don’t agree. You can then move gently and respectfully forward together.

Provide Consistent Support

Living with dementia can be an anxiety-inducing and isolating experience. The nature of the condition may leave your loved one feeling as though they have aspects of their life they can no longer control. Life can feel less stable and more than a little frightening. This can make the prospect of going to talk to or be examined by a doctor unsettling. You may find convincing them to attend an appointment is made easier by assuring them of your consistent support throughout.

Talk to your loved one about what is likely to happen on the day of an appointment. Encourage them to pinpoint aspects of the visit they are particularly anxious about and establish how you can support them through these. This could be anxiety about how they will get to the appointment, the examination process, even using technology for telehealth appointments [].

Your loved one may feel the best form of support is to have you in the doctor’s office with them. Some patients find the presence of a plus-one during medical appointments is a calming and reassuring influence []. You can help them advocate for the appropriate level of healthcare and remind them of any questions they want to ask. Though some doctors are naturally concerned about patient privacy in this regard, explaining your role as a caregiver is usually sufficient. However, don’t assume the need to step in on the patient’s behalf; take your cue from your loved one.

Consider Your Own Wellbeing

As a caregiver, it can feel natural to put your loved one’s needs first. However, it’s important to understand you also need to attend to your personal wellbeing []. This can help you overcome the stress and anxiety you may feel surrounding your role or about your care receiver’s condition.

Regular self-care is vital in this regard. You are not superhuman and you have needs you must attend to. This could include taking regular moments for meditation and mindfulness throughout the day. Particularly when facing challenges like persuading a loved one to go to the doctor, this practice can help you keep a calm and focused mind.

Importantly, you must be proactive in taking your own advice by visiting your doctor whenever needed. Your physical, mental, and emotional health need to be robust to handle the challenges ahead of you. Above all else, making certain you’re not neglecting your wellness will help improve your overall quality of life.


Convincing a hesitant loved one to visit the doctor can be challenging. You can be most effective by taking time to understand the reasons for their reluctance and being a reassuring presence. Work with them to establish what support they feel is most appropriate for you to provide. Remember, though, that attending to your own wellness is just as important. By moving forward with patience you can help your loved ones get the care they need.