How Palliative Care Helps Men Live Longer, Better Lives

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 enjoy longer, better lives. Palliative care helps men do this, but too many don’t utilize its services.

Let’s change that.

Women and Palliative Care

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’ll notice there are far more women living there. Married men, on average, die years before women. Single men die even sooner.

Why Do Men Die Younger?

Men die younger because they take risks. Throughout our evolution, it seems the part of our brain that manages judgment, risk/reward, and consequences didn’t develop as quickly or as completely in males. They tend to be more involved in violent encounters – either as aggressors or victims. 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, cisgender 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 die deaths of despair.

These result from suicide, drug overdose, or alcoholism. As a society, we stigmatize mental health issues. Cisgender men especially feel discouraged from discussing their emotions and don’t seek therapy or counseling.

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a specialized medical care approach that focuses on improving the quality of life and providing support to individuals with serious or life-limiting illnesses. The primary goal of palliative care is to relieve symptoms, manage pain, and address the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of patients and their families.

Palliative care can be provided at any stage of a serious illness, regardless of whether the patient is receiving curative treatment. It is not limited to end-of-life care and can be integrated into the overall treatment plan early in the course of an illness.

Key components of palliative care include:

Pain and Symptom Management

Palliative care aims to alleviate the physical symptoms associated with the illness, such as pain, nausea, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

Psychosocial Support

It addresses the emotional and psychological aspects of the illness, providing counseling, support for coping with stress, and assistance in navigating complex healthcare decisions.

Communication and Care Planning

Palliative care involves open and honest communication between healthcare providers, patients, and their families. It helps in clarifying treatment goals, discussing advance care planning, and ensuring that the patient’s preferences and values are respected.

Coordination of Care

Palliative care often involves a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, and chaplains, who work together to provide comprehensive care.

Support for Family Caregivers

Palliative care extends its support to family members and caregivers, addressing their needs and providing resources to help them cope with the challenges of caregiving.

While palliative care shares some similarities with death doulas and hospice care, it is distinct in that it can be provided alongside curative treatments and at any stage of a serious illness. Hospice, on the other hand, is typically provided in the final stages of a terminal illness when curative treatment is no longer effective or desired, and the focus shifts to maximizing comfort and quality of life.

Palliative care aims to enhance the overall well-being of individuals facing serious illnesses, promoting comfort, dignity, and a holistic approach to healthcare.

Men Avoid Palliative or Comfort Care

Does palliative care mean death? No, but it’s hard to shake that notion from people raised to believe that it does.

When we discuss diseases or illnesses, 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.

Improving Men’s Health

We must continue to spread the word that palliative care helps men live longer. Comfort care and symptom management benefit my male clients and help them focus their attention where it matters most.

If being a warrior is important to them, I explain that when distractions like pain and comfort get addressed, all patients can better fight or battle their illness.

Above all, palliative care improves the 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.

You can also get in touch with me to learn more about how palliative care helps the men in our lives. Contact me at Anitya Doula Services today.

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