Dad Lies to His Doctor
"When my father goes to the doctor, he rarely tells the truth. He flat out lies about almost everything. He tells his doctor he takes his high blood pressure medication when he only occasionally does. He tells the doctor that he’s never fallen when he fell about six times in the last year. Dad will tell the doctor he feels great when I hear nonstop about one thing or another.
Why does Dad lie to the doctor so much? It’s maddening. I don’t think he gets the best treatment possible with all the lies. His doctor must be puzzled also. What do I do to help resolve the situation?"
You have identified a very common problem with all patients. It’s not just your father, but everyone tends to lie. Perhaps more common are lies of omission.
Telling the truth may prompt more questions, tests, or recrimination, and it’s natural to fear all those things. Doctors are learned individuals and none of us want to appear foolish before them. We hope they will believe what we say and not see through our deception.
One thing everyone should be aware of: Doctors only believe our lies while they’re interns in medical school. By the time they’ve gone through school, residency and are in practice, they’ve seen a lot. They also have been lied to a lot. Smart providers take that into consideration when prescribing medication, ordering procedures, and giving advice. Does it affect the quality of care you receive? Absolutely it does. Each patient must accept their role in the care equation. If you insist on lying to cover whatever is uncomfortable to admit, then you will receive less-than-optimal care. We all know that the sooner a problem is treated, the better the chance for a good outcome.
Letting your father know that telling the truth will get him the best care possible is a first step. Will that change his behavior? Maybe not, if he’s had a lifetime of practice. Getting to the reason behind his deceptions won’t be easy.
In your situation, the best you can do is speak about this with your father and hope he will talk to you about it. If that fails, you can accompany him to appointments and speak up, if your father allows it.
I hear your frustration and hope that you can have some impact with your father. It would help him receive a higher quality of care and life. I wish you success on this journey.
Family Caregiving Advice Column
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