A priority focus in palliative care is supporting the well-being and mental health of older adults living with cancer and their care partners, particularly among populations carrying a disproportionate cancer burden, such as sexual and gender minorities (SGM). Previous reports indicate that SGMs experience increased cancer risk, less effective care, and poor outcomes than heterosexual, cis-gendered, and gender binary individuals. Thus, it is imperative to understand better the palliative and end-of-life (EOL) care needs of SGM cancer survivors and their care partners.
Recent studies have found that SGM individuals living with cancer report more depression than their heterosexual counterparts. These findings are concerning as increased distress and adverse mental health outcomes among individuals living with cancer have been shown to exacerbate symptom burden, impact disease progression, and increase the risk of suicide. Further, the care partners of SGM individuals living with cancer often serve as informal caregivers and may experience increased stress due to their loved one’s diagnosis and disease progression. Such caregiving-related stress has been shown to increase the risk of late-life serious mental illness, accelerated aging, and age-related diseases. There is a critical need for culturally appropriate palliative care and EOL interventions that support the well-being of SGM individuals living with cancer and their care partners.
Further, limited knowledge exists on the relationship between daily and long-term patterns of psychological distress, specifically depression symptom experience, and changes in resilience (i.e., the capacity for positive adaptation despite adversity), frailty, and poor quality of life (QoL) over time. A failure to address this gap will result in continued health disparities in an underserved population in aging and palliative care.
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