Dear Carol: My dad has been Mom’s caregiver since her stroke 10 years ago. Dad’s 79 and healthy except for Type 2 diabetes. I visit my parents every few days to help them out so I set up both of their medications for the week, but Dad often leaves the diabetes medication in the pillbox. When I ask him why, he says that the medication makes him feel dizzy and sluggish so he hates taking it. I remind him of the possible complications of diabetes but he brushes me off because his weight is normal and he used to be physically active.
That makes no sense since he has diabetes no matter what he did in the past, but somehow he uses his past to rationalize his lack of care with his medication. I’m terrified that I’ll lose my dad before his time, but I feel insane from arguing. What can I do about this? — DG.
Dear DG: It’s hard when we feel that we know what’s best for someone else and not be able to get them to do it, isn’t it? Yet, that’s the reality for many caregivers.
Most of us are aware that the side effects of medications can be inconvenient, but many are temporary. It would be good to know if your dad’s given the medication a chance to see if these issues would diminish after a couple of weeks. I’m thinking that maybe he hasn’t stuck it out because when he feels dizzy or sluggish, he feels less capable of being a good caregiver.
Have you discussed this possibility? If he admits that he hasn’t even tried to take the medication as directed, ask him how you can help him get through the next few weeks while he starts taking it and works through the side effects. Chances are he’ll refuse your help and say that he can do it on his own, but maybe your offer will encourage him to follow through.
If he insists that he’s given the medications a fair try, then I’d encourage him to see his doctor about trying a different drug. He may be correct that this is the wrong prescription for him, but the only way to correct that is to work with his doctor.
Either way, if you approach him about medication compliance being more about his ability to continue to care for your mother than for himself, your argument may be more effective. That’s because it’s common for caregivers to ignore their own health. Often, though, understanding that they need to take care of their own health for the sake of someone else is enough to motivate them.
If your dad still won’t take the drugs, then step back. Tell him that it’s his choice to make and you’ll lay off nagging. Then do so. Once he feels that this is his decision, we can hope that he’ll make the right choice for all concerned and find a medication that can help him stay healthy.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.