how to talk to dad about his health

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many men don’t like talking about their health. Most dads would prefer to avoid the topic entirely. Still, as we head into Father’s Day and continue the national observance of Men’s Health Month, now is a perfect time to get dad talking. Or, at least make it a point to look for warning signs or symptoms that might warrant a trip to the doctor, particularly as dad gets older.

Beaumont family medicine physician Nancy Ajemian, M.D., says certain topics are more relevant depending on dad’s age. And since you might only get the chance to ask him one question, here’s what she recommends.

If your father is in his fifties, one of the most important questions to ask is, “Have you had a colonoscopy?” It’s certainly not a great starter for dinner conversation, but it is an important topic. It is recommended that everyone have their first colonoscopy at age 50 to screen for colon cancer.

For dads in their sixties, Dr. Ajemian recommends asking, “Have you had a shingles shot?” The shingles vaccine is recommended for individuals after the age of 60. The vaccine reduces the risk of contracting the disease and the possibility of long-term pain that can occur after an episode of shingles.

When dad reaches his seventies and beyond, an important question to ask is, “Do you have an advanced directive for health care?” According to Dr. Ajemian, “It is important to let your family members know what health care decisions you would want if you are in a situation where you are unable to express them yourself. It ensures that what you want is or isn’t done and reduces the stress on your family.”