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Helping Seniors Overcome Resistance to Doctor's Suggestions

by Edward Leigh, Patient Communications Expert
February 23, 2017

Question: My grandmother always resists any new suggestions made by her doctor. I accompany her to most of her appointments. How can I work with her doctor to help her overcome this?

Answer: Thank you for writing.

This question focuses on the topic of change. Most of us have comfortable routines and change disrupts those routines.  This change in routine leads to stress.  We don’t change because we don’t want to feel stress.  However, through change is where we grow.  In healthcare, change helps us feel better by adopting new treatments or lifestyle changes.

In terms of healthcare, we need find the source of resistance.  For example, if the resistance has to do with a change in diet, then we need to make the diet modifications interesting and even fun!  People think healthy foods are boring. Healthy foods could be tasty with the right seasonings and ingredients.

How change is approached is also very important.  Telling someone they must follow a certain diet or exercise plan is futile.  First, focus on caring language, such as by saying, “I want you to feel better and following this diet will help you feel better so you can spend time in your beautiful garden.” Also, be a buddy – exercise with them.  In addition, be their advocate by telling them you know there will be challenges, but you will be there to help because you want them to feel better.

Thank you again for writing. My best to you and your grandmother.

Edward Leigh, MA, focuses on helping patients and healthcare professionals effectively communicate with each other. Excellent communication skills dramatically enhance patient satisfaction and safety. He presents high-energy and informative programs for hospitals, healthcare associations, medical practices, government organizations and universities. He is also an in-demand consultant and coach. He has a master’s degree in health education.

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