Caring for the Aging Male
Published in All About Seniors of Charleston Fall/Winter 2021 Edition
By Ryan Thompson and Morgan Jones, Carolina Health Care, email@example.com
Bob had a great life, enjoying his grandchildren and anticipating retirement, until things started to change. As he approached his 70’s, his wife and colleagues noticed his memory slipping, forcing an early end to his career as a doctor. Over time, Bob’s strength and energy diminished, his patience with others grew short, and mild depression set in. Age was beginning to take its toll.
Time waits for no man. According to 2016 U.S. Census Bureau data, there were nearly 22 million American men over the age of 65 living on average 76.1 years, up from 72 years in 1990. Like it or not, there are more men getting much older than ever before. These men will need our help.
Characteristics of Men
In order to care well for aging men, we have to ask, “What characterizes this generation of men?”
Providers - Baby Boomer men were raised to be the breadwinner, making sure the family had food on the table, a roof overhead, and could live the American dream.
Endurers - “I'm a guy who meets adversities head on.” - John Wayne. Men were expected to be tough and unflappable, showing no weakness. Society did not allow for men to give up or give in.
Protectors - Men in the mid-20th century were the first line of defense for the family, the community, and the country. They put themselves in harm’s way, willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others.
Changes in Men
Aging men often experience many changes physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. These changes often result in diminished capabilities, a loss of authority or control, and a serious drop in self esteem. For Bob, this was difficult to accept and embarrassing to experience.
Physical - A 2008 study showed 20% of men aged over 60 have reduced testosterone; that number rises to 50% for men aged over 80. Other common changes include slower metabolism, degradation in joints and muscles, and increased cardiovascular risks. Some men experience more serious threats, such as Parkinson’s Disease or cancer. Physical setbacks like these can really land a punch on an otherwise strong and steady man.
Mental - “Where are my $!&#@ keys?” Simple forgetfulness and slower cognitive processing accelerate with age. In fact, 11% of men over age 71 are believed to have Alzheimers’ or other dementia. The frustrations that accompany reduced mental ability are enough to make a man wonder, “Am I losing my mind?”
Social - It’s not uncommon for an older man accustomed to freedom and independence to find himself dependent on the help of others for the most basic tasks in life. Conversely, when the car gets permanently parked due to physical or mental declines, that same man can become quickly isolated. Once a contributor and socially engaged, he now finds himself both needy and lonely.
Emotional - “My once kind father has displayed more anger these past few months.” This is a familiar sentiment to families connected to an aging male. He’s grappling with a loss of purpose and self-worth. Mood swings are being nudged along by decreasing testosterone levels. Depression could be setting in.
Caring for Men
Bob had a difficult time adjusting to the changes that occured as he aged. He needed his family and friends to understand what he was going through and respond appropriately. Likewise, we must adapt to the changing needs of the rising population of aging men in our communities. Consider the following as a place to begin:
Preserve Dignity - Offer respect and courtesy while meeting his basic needs like bathing or dressing. Focus on becoming a good listener, paying attention to non-verbal cues as a man’s ability to communicate verbally diminishes. Preserving dignity while providing care buoys an older man’s spirit.
Facilitate Usefulness - “Seems like I’m good for nothing these days.” This sentiment can be turned around by a thoughtful caregiver who sees beyond the aging man’s limitations. Enable him to continue contributing, even in the smallest ways, as his capabilities decline. Ask what CAN he do instead of reminding him what he CAN’T do.
Assure Value - In spite of all the aging process may have taken away, he still matters... let him know! Families can affirm the older man’s importance as they sit with him, reminiscing through family photo albums or videos. Kind notes or visits from friends and former colleagues remind him he is not forgotten. A man’s worth is not bound to his accomplishments or capabilities but to what he means to those most important to him.
Caring for a man like Bob can be challenging. We can help him best if we see life through his eyes. Vividly think through what it meant to be a man when he was growing up - that is still how he measures himself. Take time to understand and have empathy for the many changes he’s experiencing and adapt your approach accordingly. Remember, these aging men are our beloved husbands, fathers, and friends!
 Stanworth RD, Jones T H. Testosterone for the aging male; current evidence and recommended practice. Clin Interv Aging. 2008;3(1):25-44 https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S190
 https://www.alz.org/media/Documents/alzheimers-facts-and-figures-2019-r.pdf. p.19. Accessed May, 21 2020 1:05PM
Ryan Thompson is the owner and CEO of Carolina Health Care (CHC). They have earned the coveted Leader in Excellence award from BestofHomecare.com. He is a graduate of Furman University and Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Previously, Ryan served as Executive Pastor at an urban church in downtown Charleston. CHC Charleston; (843) 849-5454
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