Quad Cities, IL/IA

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

How to Get Your Loved One to Get Their Colonoscopy


By Linda Gilman, Geri-Ed Services

“I’m not going to the doctor…I don’t need one!” This is how the conversation begins. Miss Lily is scheduled for a colonoscopy very soon and Marilyn waited to tell her until three days before. As a rule, Miss Lily does not like to go to the doctor and Marilyn has to use her best “therapeutic fib.” Marilyn often uses these to get Miss Lily to do something she normally would not eagerly do without a battle, such as bathing, going to doctor’s appointments, changing clothes, etc. Marilyn explains, “It’s not a lie but a tool to help me, the caregiver, take care of Miss Lily.”

How is Marilyn going to get Miss Lily to take the colonoscopy and, more importantly, how will Marilyn get Miss Lily to take the prep?

Scenario 1
Marilyn tells Miss Lily that she needs to take a test in a few days and she has to prepare for it. “You’re going to have to drink a few glasses of this lemony solution…. that is going to clean you out so the doctor can do a good job of seeing the inside of your colon.” Miss Lily: “ I’m not taking any tests and I’m not drinking anything. I don’t need no doctor looking at my insides … Now leave me alone!” This went on for another five minutes until Miss Lily shouted, “I said I’m not doing no testing and I’m not leaving this house,” and pushed Marilyn away.

Scenario 2
Marilyn: “Miss Lily… the doctor’s office just called and needs your help. He needs you to drink a lemon solution and then come into his office to try this new gadget he has. The best part is that it doesn’t hurt… you actually get to nap while he does it. And, he wants to tell other people that it is an easy test and very important to have done. The doctor thinks you’re the best person for this job. What do you think, Miss Lily? Oh yes, and we can go to Dairy Queen after… you know how you love those strawberry sundaes.” Miss Lily: “Oh, I don’t know Marilyn…I don’t like doctors and I don’t know if I want him trying something new on me. I’m very private… you know.” Marilyn: “I know, Miss Lily, this is very important and the doctor needs your help. I think it will be fine. I will be with you the whole time.” Miss Lily: “ Well, I don’t know. The doctor thinks I’m the right person, huh? And I get a sundae?”

Like Miss Lily, many older adults dislike going to the doctor, not to mention, having tests done to them. Marilyn was smart not to give Miss Lily too much information about having the test. Miss Lily would only obsess and become agitated only to forget soon after. Colonoscopies save lives. By telling Miss Lily that the doctor “needs” her help, Miss Lily feels good about being able to be helpful. At 85, Miss Lily is still pretty healthy, medically. If your loved one is a candidate for a colonoscopy, have it done. The test has gotten easier…with less discomfort. 

If you need more information about how to communicate with an older person on this subject, contact Marilyn Woelke or Linda Gilman at Geri-Ed Services: 309-781-6462 or 309-373-2400.

Photo credit: M_a_y_a/iStock