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My husband refuses to go for dialysis. What can I do?


Question: My husband is supposed to go for dialysis three times a week but he hates going and refuses to go. This is very stressful!   I know he has to go but it is impossible to force him to do so.

Dr. Amy:  Missing a dialysis appointment is really not a good idea. I am sure your husband must feel very unwell when he skips an appointment—and you must be at your wits end! I am sorry you find yourself in this situation! Here are five ideas for you to consider.

1.  Be curious. Why is your husband acting this way? Many older people resist going to the doctor. Is your husband worried or uncomfortable about something to do with the procedure? Empathize with him as you seek to understand what is motivating his behavior. Do not try to argue or reason with him. Just play back for him what you heard, so that he knows you really understand where he is coming from. I find that people are often willing to shift their position once they feel understood. Feeling truly understood is one of our deepest human desires.

2.  Share how the situation is affecting you. Most of us live in family—even those of us who live alone but have relatives elsewhere. The decisions we make and how we behave can affect many people, not just ourselves. After you have done step 1, calmly and without anger share how his decisions are affecting you. How do you feel? What’s going on in your head, your heart, and your body? State your concerns for yourself. The ask him if he would go for dialysis now that he understand the impact that not going is having on you.

3.  Talk to the doctor. What does your husband’s doctor have to say? Can he or she talk to your husband?

4.  Let go. If your husband is mentally sound and none of the above steps work, you may need to consider letting go. You are his spouse, not his mother. Adults who are mentally sound have the right to make decisions that we disagree with. A dear friend of mine died suddenly this year. She was still quite young. She was diagnosed with dangerously high blood pressure more than 20 years ago and refused to take medication to bring it under control. Suddenly one evening, she had a massive heart attack and died instantly. We were all heartbroken—and very angry at her for a while—but at the end of the day, this was her decision.

5.  Manage your stress. Regardless of how your husband decides to live his life, you can take steps to manage your stress. You are dealing with a lot! I encourage you to pay attention to your diet, drink plenty of water, get enough rest, and exercise. Taking care of yourself—even if you just take small steps—will help you face your challenges with more resiliency.

Good luck!    


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