How Palliative Care Helps 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. Palliative care helps men live longer, but too many don’t utilize its services. Let’s change that.

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, male residents are in demand and popular. Married men, on average, die years before women. Single men die even sooner.

Why do men die younger?

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 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 to discuss their emotions and seek therapy or counseling.

Why do 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.

Some solutions to improve men’s health

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

If being a warrior is important to them, when distractions like pain and comfort get addressed, all patients 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.

Let’s talk about these issues – contact Anitya Doula Services if you need help with tender or uncomfortable conversations about palliative care.

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

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