As adults grow older, they’re more likely to develop health conditions. In addition, they’re more likely to develop unhealthy habits. With how many illnesses manifest as people age, it’s important to ensure that they remain healthy. A report by the World Health Organisation says that age-related complications arise because of molecular and cellular damage.
Growing older increases the likelihood of back pain, neck pain, cataracts, hearing loss, osteoarthritis, lung diseases, diabetes, depression, cancer, and dementia. While many conditions can be influenced by genetics, some are caused by habits and physical and social environments. As you age, you will need to add more health screenings, and more healthy habits to ensure that the latter half of life is as healthy as possible. But when a loved one is actively engaging in habits that can ruin their quality of life, how can you intervene? The Essential Health Screenings For Men
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How to talk with loved ones about their health
Say you have a parent who is getting sicker. When checked by the doctors, they find out that your parent is predisposed to a stroke. Therefore, to reduce the risk of a stroke, they need to have frequent check-ups with a cardiologist, stop smoking and drinking, reduce red meat, and reduce sugar. However, your parent won’t stop any bad habits.
It’s difficult to tell an elder that they need to change their ways. Not only do they not have to listen to you, but they also may not care to change. When people are set in their ways, they’re less likely to be receptive to any requests to change. In addition, people can feel ambushed if you try to tell them that they need different health habits.
There are also more sensitive issues when it comes to conducting a health intervention. If your loved one is someone struggling with rapid weight gain, should you tell them they need to stop over-eating when you’re not sure that’s what causing it? It can be easy to decide to say something simply because your intentions are good. But what if you’re causing extra harm to the person? Some health conditions such as PCOS can cause rapid weight gain and constantly harping on someone about their weight can lead to disordered eating. In which case, you’ll have caused more harm.
Timing and cause are important when choosing to speak to someone about their health. If the person is struggling with a condition that doesn’t have a visible cause, you can ask them how they are rather than making demands on their habits. In addition, being heavy-handed can make your loved ones defensive. Your loved one may also be avoiding getting medical treatment for financial reasons, therefore jumping down their throats to see a doctor can seem inconsiderate. There are steps you can take when talking with people about their health.
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1. Avoid blaming them
You may think applying pressure or using harsh truths to get your family or friends to change can be effective but it can have the opposite effect. For example, if you have a loved one who constantly gets respiratory diseases and they’re a smoker, blaming them for their smoking won’t make them stop. In many instances, they know their habits are poor but someone with a smoking addiction has reasons why they can’t stop. It can range from stress management to simply struggling with addiction. Blaming them for their health problems can also make them more likely to hide their poor habits and potentially escalate. Be curious, not accusatory. How Drug Addiction Can Harm A Relationship
2. Approach the situation with understanding
If you have a loved one who is avoiding getting a checkup, try to find out why first. They may have trauma associated with the experience or lack the funding for it. Once you know why they are avoiding checkups, you can then take steps to help them see a doctor. This can range from accompanying them for moral support or crowdfunding for the consultations. Make your loved ones understand that the most important thing for them is their health, not you being proven right.
If they have a bad habit they don’t want to drop, you can find out why. For instance, if they need to stop drinking but are unable to, they could be stressed or dealing with alcohol use disorder. These are conditions that need different medical interventions that you should show them you are willing to support them through.
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3. Prepare beforehand
Start small when introducing the fact that there’s a problem. Say your spouse has been urinating blood but they are not going to the doctor. Don’t yell at them or try to force an appointment. Don’t try to nag them either. You can start by pointing out the problem and show why it’s necessary to get a checkup sooner than later. They can also say it’s an injury they suffered and the blood will clear. That could be an avoidance tactic. You can work with them and say if it doesn’t clear in a few days, they will need to see a doctor.
Come up with a list where you outline every concern that you have. If the person you need to talk with is difficult, you can practise with someone else before approaching them. You can also conscript someone who they would listen to. This can help you avoid hostilities with your loved one. Tell them that you’d like to have a serious conversation privately. Don’t approach them when they’re busy or distracted. If the situation is an emergency, get them medical treatment immediately.
4. Be vulnerable
If your loved one is failing to make changes or see a doctor because of a lack of motivation, you can show them that you need them to change because you need them. For example, if your sibling has gained weight because of a sedentary lifestyle and is struggling to move you can let them know that you miss how they would show up for you. If you have an event coming up that they would miss because of health complications, showing up for you can help them take the first step to make a change. This is a slippery slope because you can’t weaponise people’s love for you to get them to change for you. That would be manipulation. But letting your grandfather know that you’d like him to see his great-grandchild which won’t be possible if he keeps smoking can trigger motivation within him. If this doesn’t work, you shouldn’t withhold your support or affection.
5. Be understanding
Even after doing everything right, your loved one can still reject all your attempts to intervene. Doing a full intervention where you get other loved ones to tell the person that they need to take action still may not work. When they say no, you will need to respect that. Sometimes this may be because they don’t want to feel like a burden. Also, they may be having different mental health problems that make it difficult for them to make these changes. It may be painful to see someone throw their health away but ultimately, you can’t make adults do what they don’t want to. Remain empathetic and tell them you will be there for them should they decide to change.
Check out these stories on how to have other health conversations:
Difficult But Critical Conversations To Have With Your Ageing Parents
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