By Rebecca Ward, MSW, LCSW
As many women will attest, it is often difficult to get men to go see their physicians. Generally speaking, we all fear the unknown, and when it comes to the mystery of the human body, many of us fear seeing the doctor. “White coat syndrome,” a documented phenomenon, during which individuals’ blood pressures surge while in a doctor’s office, is a very real and measurable occurrence for about 20 percent of Americans. Fear can sometimes be a response to the perceived danger of doctors’ offices and hospitals; however, the secret is to translate that fear into motivation and to become proactive when it comes to our health.
Most men are tough, strong and independent and can tolerate discomfort in a manly way. They don’t like to admit they’re susceptible to microbes and such and will almost always decide a few ibuprofen and a good night’s sleep will remedy most physical problems. So, what do we women do when we really think the men in our lives need to see a doctor?
Older men tend to listen to rumors of mortality and suspect they’re mortal, so getting them there gets somewhat easier. Not easy, just less difficult. Maybe. Sometimes. Of course, excruciating pain helps the process.
Logical, Cognitive Approach: You offer information, i.e., “A fever generally means there is an infection somewhere in your body. When this fever continues for a few days, it may mean there are really nasty bacteria roaming around inside you that need to be eradicated. Over-the-counter meds can’t do the job. Antibiotics can. You will need to go to the doctor to get a prescription for these killer pills. You will take them, and then you will be well and can go back to doing all the things you love to do. Get in the car.”
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Fear-Based Rumor Mongering: You tell him that whatever symptoms he is exhibiting are “going around,” and you’ve heard that many people have waited too long to get to a doctor and have been so sick they’ve had to be admitted into the hospital … or died. You say this as if you were telling him a ghost story around the old campfire.
If You Loved Me: You are tearful as you simper and snivel at how desolate you — and the children, any present or future grandchildren and other collateral people, like his golf foursome or duck blind buds who really matter to him — would be if he doesn’t get to the doctor in time. You tell him how much you love and need him and how life would be almost meaningless without him and that if he really loved you, he would go see the doctor immediately … and put you out of your misery.
Outright Threats: Nothing else has persuaded your feverish, aching man who has begun to complain some about his predicament and become a bit demanding, so you say with steely reserve: “If you don’t get to the doctor, I can’t promise you that I’m going to take care of you when you become really sick or disabled from whatever this is. If you’re not going to take care of yourself, why should I? I think I’ll just leave rather than stay here and watch you die … which you could do. And I mean it.”
Next to Last Resort: You tell him the lawyer is coming over to help get his affairs in order so that at least he will leave his family taken care of. You also have invited his parents and siblings over to say their goodbyes, and the priest is at the ready. You tell him you have accepted his wish to die, and while you are vehemently opposed to his position, you have gained acceptance and will let nature take its course. Remind him that he has a tee time on Sunday and needs to call someone to let them know he won’t be there. Sob quietly.
And if not one of those approaches to a man’s reluctance to seek medical help doesn’t work, the last resort is to drug him or zap him with a Taser and load his carcass in the car and head straight to the doctor’s office. I’m not sure you can do this alone and often his friends may not be helpful as guys tend to stick together. Now, if he has chest pain, just get him in the car — even if you have to pull a gun on him. Heart attacks are not to be ignored. That old “It’s just indigestion” explanation will not fly.
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By Rebecca Ward, MSW, LCSW