Tuesdays are Your Turn – Convincing Adults to Seek Control

Last week, a reader asked about expectations and possibilities of control for her newly diagnosed, adult-onset asthma. That question prompted this related one in the comments:

How do you get your adult-onset (or at least, adult-diagnosed) spouse to achieve and maintain control? He’s so used to being short of breath, coughing, and wheezing that he doesn’t see that it isn’t normal. He does acknowledge feeling better on the rare occasions that he takes his Flovent as he should, but getting him there is hard. Ideas? Suggestions? – Lpnmom

Been there.

While I can’t speak to adult asthma specifically, in this type of situation with my own spouse, I’ve generally relied on guilt. And also, melodrama.

For example, I am not above resorting to this argument: “What good does it do to worry about our kids’ health if you won’t be around when they’re older, anyway, SINCE YOU WON’T TAKE CARE OF YOUR OWN HEALTH?”

I’m exaggerating, but only a little.

Anyone have a less confrontational method? Or at least a different one?

26 responses to “Tuesdays are Your Turn – Convincing Adults to Seek Control”

  1. Elisheva says:

    Wow, Amy. That’s a bit harsh. The mantra of my childhood pretty much was “Take your medicine properly if you want to avoid permanent lung damage.” Which at least for me as a kid, that wasn’t worth much. What kind of kid thinks or cares about permanent lung damage in the future? I guess it’s kind of like how you can tell a smoker as many times as you want that they’re going to kill themselves. But they don’t seem to care. It’s too big of a concept to take seriously. People tend not to get scared off by big looming things like that.

    The only advice I can think of is to set a good example and make taking inhalers seem normal and beneficial. But if you’re not taking asthma meds yourself, I don’t know how you’d go about doing that.

    I’m curious to see other people’s responses.

  2. Amy says:

    Um, not really. If you reread the question, you’ll see the reader was asking about spouses, not children. And I’m talking about my spouse as well, not my child.

  3. Danielle says:

    Well, that’s a tough question. My first try would be those pictures of inflamed and non-inflamed airways, those are pretty gross. Although I’d be surprised if he hadn’t already been shown them. Some tactfully introduced education on lung inflammation and steroid action?

    Oh! Something does come to mind. I have a set of family friends where the husband has asthma. He is ALWAYS on the computer, he barely comes up for air. He has terrible asthma control and seems to not care. His wife placed his inhalers right by the computer, and I think it works somewhat. You could try the same thing with the TV or books or whatever he tends to go to every day.

  4. Melissa Ann Moore says:


    My thought is just that I’ve had asthma since I was a kid, but it was never treated. So I got very used to wheezing and not being able to breathe, and still sometimes think these things are O.K. when they are getting to the point of ridiculousness (I take my meds and everything but sometimes when I’m in a flare my old definition of normal sneaks back in).

    So I’m thinking if I had a spouse I would tell him that his coughing/wheezing etc. is bothering me, and that he might have blocked it out or whatever, but I know it’s not normal and I would appreciate it if he would at least try it the other way and see if he feels better, doesn’t cough as much etc.

  5. Sara C. says:

    I have a similar situation…my husband snores terribly…to the point where when we were first married, if I didn’t go to bed and fall asleep before him, I had to sleep in the guest room. I spent many long nights listening to him, so that when he stopped breathing, if a minute passed…I could kick him, and start him breathing again. He denied he had any problems, he said he didn’t snore, yada, yada, yada.

    Between Abby being born, and Mariella being born, I finally convinced him to go for a sleep study. Basically, I promised I would totally shut up about his snoring if he could prove to me that there was nothing wrong. (at this point, we had been married 6 years, probably…6 years of me constantly complaining about his snoring and apnea)

    His sleep study showed that in the course of 6 hours, he had over 400 apnea episodes, some lasting a minute or more…most lasting between 15 and 30 seconds. It’s a bit easier now, because I was right…he tends to listen a bit when I suggest something

    So, basically….I had to badger and nag…then promise to clam up if I was wrong. I think I just wore him down. (ironically, after the sleep study, but before he got the CPAP machine at home, he actually fell asleep while driving, totally due to the apnea…thankfully, the circumstances made it basically a non-event…very little damage to the cars, and no one was hurt…but it sort of proved my point even more…that he needed to take care of himself, or the next time, he might not be so lucky.)

  6. Elisheva says:

    Amy, I realize we’re talking about spouses, not children. But as far as I know, people don’t like to be pressured of scared into doing things and often won’t take the warnings seriously even if it’s a life or death matter. Just think about all the people who smoke or drive without buckling their seatbelts. This day in age, everyone who does those things is aware of the statistics and has been told a million times that what they’re doing is dangerous yet they choose not to take it seriously. I read an article about some study that said that warning people that smoking would make them grey and wrinkly is more effective than warning them about cancer and death. If the consequense is too big and scary, people don’t take it seriously.

  7. Amy says:

    Yes, but when you choose to have children with somebody, you’re making an agreement with that person to do everything you can to stick around and raise those children together for as long as you can. What you like or don’t like as far as being pressured or scared flies out the window when you decide to become a parent and take on the responsibility of raising them to adulthood. The second that baby is born, life’s not just about you or what you want anymore. Ask your parents about it someday.

    It’s not harsh to remind your spouse of that responsibility if a health issue is being neglected. That neglect could seriously impact you and your children someday, not just him.

    Raising a family is nothing like life before kids. You just can’t look at it from the same perspective.

  8. Sarah says:

    I think it depends a bit on the person… someone like my dad has to come to the decision on his own. You basically have to engineer it that he comes across some information that will convince him, and if he finds it, he’ll change on his own. But if you push him, he’ll refuse just to be stubborn (wonder where I get it from? :P ) .

    I’m very like my dad. I’ll listen to the evidence and come to my own decision, and then I’ll follow through. But if you come on too strong, I’ll shut down and not listen, even if you’re right, because I don’t like being badgered over something. I especially have a hard time taking people who don’t practice what they preach seriously. For example, mom nagging me when I was a teenager about my weight just served to tick me off because she was quite a bit more overweight than I was (the whole Teenager Brain thing may have had quite a bit to do with that, too, but I still hate being nagged over anything). But when mom was diagnosed with high blood pressure and prediabetes, something clicked and I said, “Yeah, I don’t want that to happen to me!” and changed my lifestyle. *shrug*

    My sister… convince her that it’s good for her kid (if you eat healthy and exercise, she’ll learn healthy habits from you, etc), and you’ll usually bring her around.

    Mom is like my sister, only to the extreme. She won’t do anything to improve her own health, unless her action is directly, immediately impacting someone she cares about. She only quit smoking because I was very allergic to cigarette smoke (a true allergy – complete with angioedema and hives… it’s the one allergy I actually don’t mind since smokers tend to get snippy if you say “asthma”, but they’re more understanding if you say “allergy” for some reason) and flaring up and swelling every time she came in from a smoke break. I can’t convince her to take better care of herself. I tried for years. I’ve given up.

    This might sound bad, but I think you have to figure out how to push the person’s buttons in the right way to convince them to come around… A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, I think.

  9. Amy says:

    Agreed, and I don’t think that sounds bad at all. What I wrote in the post above works for us because of various family/personal/health issues specific to our own situation. It may not work for others, and that’s fine, too.

  10. Mr. Asthma Mom says:

    Yeah, so people don’t like being pressured? True. People don’t like guilt trips and ultimatums? I’d say that’s right. Why don’t people like these things? Setting aside guilt trips and ultimatums that are selfish manipulations and focusing on a plea to a loved one (or at least someone you like okay):

    1 – They don’t like being told that they have to change. Change means you have to stop doing something or a way of doing something that you are comfortable with and/or prefer.
    2 – People don’t want to hear that their behavior is not only detrimental to their health but harmful to others. They don’t want to believe that they are being in any way selfish.

    On both counts: Tough.

    I don’t like not having a burger and fries whenever I want. I don’t like hearing that by not taking care of myself puts my children in the possible position of not having a father, or more realistically, their grandchildren not having this side’s grandfather. But it’s true.

    Reacting by saying “I don’t care” and firmly reinforcing a harmful behavior to basically say “F- you” is selfish and childish. So yes, it does depend on the person. But ultimately the person has to see where they’re wrong.

    It’s only harsh if people believe that preserving the ego and moment-to-moment happiness of the individual in question is more important than their long term health and the happiness of their children. Sometimes, catering to what “people don’t like” is just another way of saying, “it’s easier to ignore than to deal.”

    BTW – contrary to how this post may make it seem, I’m not some obese slob laying around stuffing 1/2 pound bacon cheeseburgers down my throat and washing it down with a crisco milkshake. They’re 1/4 pounders and the shake is strawberry. Just sayin. :-) .

  11. Amy says:

    I drink your milkshake!


    There’s never a good reason not to use this reference.

  12. Sarah says:

    Oh, yeah, I agree with you entirely. Me refusing to listen to a well-intentioned but poorly-delivered plea just because I’m being nagged/badgered/whatever is definitely not one of my best traits. But, fact is, it’s part of my personality. As much as I try to change it, I don’t react well to being nagged and badgered. So if you want to convince me to do something differently, and you want to convince me quickly and as painlessly as possible, you have to avoid badgering me. Likewise, if you know the person you’re dealing with hates being badgered (like my dad, for example), if you want a reasonable chance of success, you have to avoid badgering them.

    The approach I respond best to is when people strip the issue of as much emotion as possible and just lay the facts out. “This is the problem. This is why it’s a problem. This is what I think would make a good solution. This is why I think it’s a good solution.”

    Emotion just complicates things when it comes to problem resolution, and it has a tendency to turn what would be a simple discussion into a huge blow-up.

  13. Mr. Asthma Mom says:

    I’m like you Sarah. Guilt trips generally just piss me off. However, I will say that an emotional argument such as a guilt trip would not come along if a logical and fact-based discussion had changed the behavior at all.

    For example, the exchange Amy referenced above came because when I was first told my cholestrol was high, I made some minor adjustments. But I’ve always been very healthy overall so I didn’t look at it as anything I needed to dedicate any real energy toward. So I would – knowing EXACTLY how full of crap my logic was – allow myself a second Bratwurst at the fair – AT THE FAIR where the cheapest sausages from the cheapest swine is sold at probably 150mg (yes exaggeration) of LDL cholesterol per serving. I figured I’d just run it off the next day with a long, early morning run. I mean, that’s why I exercise right? So I can eat the things I like? Anyone with any understanding of cardiovascular health knows that all I was doing was running off the fat and calories, maybe helping my HDL (which is the only thing helping against the LDL in this methodology). But for the most part, eating nearly a full day’s helping of cholesterol in one meal – never a good way to maintain heart health let alone improve it. I was being stubborn and mildly in denial.

    I don’t think anyone is talking about running off half-cocked trying to manipulate the world by making them feel like crap. I don’t even recall anyone saying they are necessarily effective. I just don’t think that they’re harsh. If it comes to something like this, I don’t think they’re harsh at all.

  14. Sarah says:

    See, I have too many people in my life who jump past the “logical discussion” and jump straight to “guilt trip and nagging” – which, frankly, is a large part of why guilt trips and nagging tick me off so much. At least let me know you want me to correct or do something before you try to make me feel like crap about it. :P

    I can put up with a guilt trip (as irritating as I find it) if I at least feel like I kind of deserve it. But if I’ve had no chance to correct the problem, don’t rake me over the coals for something I didn’t know was a problem in the first place. I think that was more the point I was trying to make above. Guilt trips aren’t necessary – most of the time, anyway. :)

  15. Elisheva says:

    I should have thought about this before when I answered, but… I didn’t. I’m not married but I do have an asthmatic flatmate. I realize that flatmate and spouse are not the same thing, but hey. That’s what I got. So anyway, most of the time she doesn’t take her asthma seriously. If it were up to me, she’d be on maintenance meds – especially during colds, which like all of us is the worst, but she doesn’t think it’s a big deal, plus she thinks steroid inhalers are evil (she thinks I’m out of line when she sees me using mine) and to get her to use plain old Ventolin can be a fight. Hearing someone else coughing and struggling to breathe is painful enough. Add on top of that that you have the same disease as them so you know how it feels and on top of that, you know how make them feel better but they won’t comply. (What’s weird is she’s totally on top of my breathing and if she can hear that my breathing’s off, she tells me to use my inhaler, tho not the steroid one.) So when I generally do when I hear her coughing like that is nag her. I have also been known to try to use guilt and even throwing my own inhalers at her just so she’ll use something and stop coughing. And what always happens is she thanks me and tells me I’m right once the drugs have kicked in and she feels better. Yet it still is a fight almost every time. Go figure.

    Mr. Asthma Mom, I like your comments! You should post more!

Leave a Reply