I actually like seeing Dr. Delfs. Because I see her regularly, she knows me and shows an interest in both my life and my health. She makes me feel better, emotionally and physically, when I visit. Well – usually.

I’ve just learned that a shocking percentage of adults over 65 avoid going to the doctor for a variety of reasons. This behavior puts them at great risk.

According to a survey by the Mesothelioma Center, 16% of seniors NEVER visit a doctor after noticing health symptoms, and 17% wait over a week. That’s a third of the senior population risking serious health complications by avoiding their doctors.

What are these “slackers” thinking? Why would they avoid much-needed care when it’s the best way to continue a healthy life?

Are you one of them? I blush to admit that sometimes I am.

Which of these (foolish) excuses fit you? (I’m guilty of the first two.)

I’ll Wait to See If My Symptoms Disappear

“Give it a few weeks, and if you’re still experiencing these symptoms, come back in.” How many times have I heard this advice from my doctor? I often wait out those few weeks on my own before going in, but there are some symptoms that require immediate attention, especially in this era of Covid-19.

Symptoms like severe pain, a bloody stool, or unrelenting diarrhea need to be diagnosed quickly. It’s best to call in and let the triage nurse help you decide whether to wait out your symptoms or not.

I Can Self-Diagnose

The Internet is a tempting tool, especially in the arena of health. It’s interesting to look up symptoms on the Mayo Clinic or WebMD site, and if they’re minor problems, that’s probably OK.

Of course, your doctor is the best person to evaluate your situation. He/she will ask questions and check out other things you may not have considered.

Another problem with self-diagnosis is that you can make a serious misjudgment. Don’t work yourself into a lather over a self-diagnosed case of cancer when your problem is a simple case of heartburn.

Let your doctor help you sort through the information and order the tests required to rule out more serious ailments.

I Can’t Afford to Pay a Doctor

It’s important to have an annual physical even when you’re healthy. Your doctor can evaluate symptoms you’ve experienced recently and help screen you for any more serious conditions that may be in early stages – the best time to intervene.

If you believe you can’t afford such preventive care, contact your local health department and ask about programs to help cover your medical costs. Every state (and country) has safety nets for individuals who can’t afford care, but you need to be proactive in accessing them. Make that call!

I Just Don’t Have Time

What could be more important than maintaining your health? You’re probably retired, and perhaps you’re a busy retiree. If you have time to watch a television program or sit with a book or magazine, you have time to see your doctor.

This, my friend, is the weakest of excuses. It sounds more like denial to me. Make an appointment for a physical today.

I Hate to Bother Someone to Take Me to the Doctor

Many of us need to rely on public transportation or on others to get us to important appointments. Most communities have special services like senior buses or rides, but you need to make a contact for an appointment.

Also, there’s nothing wrong with calling on a friend or relative to bring you to a doctor. Wouldn’t you do the same for them if you could? Have the grace to let others help you.

I Don’t Want to Hear the Bad News

We’re all very good at denial, but ignoring symptoms out of fear is the worst thing you can do. With nearly every health issue early intervention is the best way to overcome it – or at least to slow it down.

In addition, the time you’ll spent worrying will do two things: delay treatment and undermine your emotional well-being. We all know that a positive attitude is one of the most effective treatments, so it follows clearly that worry and depression have the opposite effect on your health.

According to the U.S. National Council on Aging, “approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two. Four chronic diseases – heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes—cause almost two-thirds of all deaths each year.”

Don’t you owe it to yourself to take good care of yourself as you journey into the final decades of your life? Make these years healthy and productive by scheduling an annual physical exam and visiting your doctor whenever you experience new health symptoms. You’re worth it, and your loved ones will appreciate having you around longer.

Have you ever decided not to visit your doctor even though you needed to? Which symptoms do you usually ignore? What reasons have you come up with to not visit your doctor? Do you go for an annual physical exam? How do you feel afterwards? Please share your thoughts and let’s have a conversation!

Let's Have a Conversation!