How Palliative Care Can Help Men Live Longer

Why do men avoid comfort or palliative care? Why are so many dying years before they should? I am married to a man. I’ve raised two young men. I am also related to and friends with men. All of whom I adore and love.

I’d like them to stick around.

Women, on average, live longer. Over half of those alive over 65 are female. By the time we get to our late 80s, that number goes up to 67%.

Been to any nursing homes or retirement communities lately?

If so, you’d notice there are far more women living there. As a result, the male residents are in demand and popular. That may be the only upside to the fact that men, on average, die years before women. Single men die even sooner.

Why do men die so soon?

They take risks. Over the course of our evolution, it seems the part of our brain that manages judgment, risk/reward, and consequences didn’t develop as quickly or completely in males. They tend to be more involved in violent encounters – either as aggressor or victim. Their default emotion is more often anger or frustration compared to other genders.

None of this is good for men’s health.

More males die in bicycle, motorcycle, car and gun accidents, too.

Young men also smoke, drink and take drugs in greater numbers than young women. Some of the most dangerous jobs – farming, firefighting, construction work and the logging industry – attract more male than female job applicants. This adds to the problem.

Their predilection for risk extends to health issues.

Men die of heart disease more often and at a younger age. This might be the result of ignoring red flags like high blood pressure or bad cholesterol levels. They don’t visit the doctor for regular checkups as often.

In addition, men weigh more than other genders. It all adds up.

Deaths of despair

In almost every demographic, people are living longer, healthier lives. Except, it seems, for white Americans who lack a college degree. This goes for men and women.

Although, even within this group, the men do worse.

As a result, they are dying deaths of despair.

These result from suicide, drug overdose or alcoholism. As a society, we stigmatize mental health issues. Men are especially discouraged to discuss their emotions, seek therapy or counseling.

Why do men avoid palliative or comfort care?

When diseases or illnesses are discussed, we often use terms like “battling” or “fighting.” Men who view themselves as fighters might see palliative care as giving up. They don’t understand that curative care and comfort care can be in synch and utilized together.

To make matters worse, men often view the act of discussing symptoms and emotions as a sign of weakness.

Some solutions to improve men’s health

We must continue to spread the word that palliative care can be synonymous with fighting. Comfort care and symptom management can actually benefit a male patient and help them focus their attention where it matters most.

If being a warrior is important to them, when distractions like pain and comfortability are addressed, all patients can better fight or battle their illness.

Above all, palliative care is about improving the person’s quality of life. If understood, that distinction might help more men come forward and reap the benefits of a palliative care environment.

As loved ones, we can also encourage our boys and men to:

  • Visit their doctors regularly.
  • Consider mental health services based on needs and strengths, not just emotional pleas.
  • Report physical and mental health symptoms sooner rather than later.
  • Go to the dentist at least twice a year.
  • Rewire the brain regularly so it stays strong.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
  • Follow a doctor’s recommendation.
  • Get good quality sleep at night.

Men’s Health Month is a good reminder for all of us. Let’s use this month to talk about these issues – contact us if you need help in this area.

We want the men in our lives to be around as long as possible.

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