Questions haunting aging LGBT seniors include: Will the nurses or other residents bully me? Will my partner be able to visit me and sleep over at this nursing home? Will my identity as an elderly transgender woman be accepted? Fear of discrimination in nursing homes and assisted living communities drive many LGBT seniors back into the closet, indicating a need for specialized education and training of health care staff. This is particularly relevant to the elderly because research indicates discrimination can result in depression, substance abuse, and premature death. Today’s blog is the second in a series about the unique health, economic, legal, spiritual, and social challenges LGBT seniors face when planning for quality and affordable long-term care.
Without training, many healthcare facilities will remain unaware of the needs of their LGBT patients, even if they subscribe to the mantra that they “treat all patients equally”. LGBT seniors may not be open about their sexual orientation. They are the generation in which being “out” could result in: dismissal from a job, being threatened and ostracized by their church, family, and friends, and in extreme cases, institutionalization. Health care staff may assume that they do not have an LGBT patients because their patients don’t reveal this information. Distrust of institutions by some LGBT-seniors can make entry into a nursing home or assisted living community a fearful prospect. The documentary “Generation Silent”, by Stu Maddux, vividly illustrates the struggles of LGBT seniors:
Opportunities for specialized training of health care staff can help counter the feelings of invisibility, fear, and apprehension that many LGBT seniors experience. The Aging Services Foundation of Boulder County, Colorado, created a training, Project Visibility, targeting administrators and staff of nursing homes, assisted living residences, home care agencies, and other senior service providers. The foundation created a short film with the intent to “educate, counter stereotypes and develop compassionate care for all LGBT persons as they age”. Project Visibility is now being utilized by the Tucson, Arizona-based, Pima Council on Aging, suggesting that training models can be shared between local agencies. Please see the Project Visibility trailer below:
Similarly in South Florida, a new initiative called Protect our Elders (POE), is being coordinated by the national LGBT senior advocacy group, SAGE, and local LGBT organizations. POE will offer competency training for South Florida health care facilities and agencies serving seniors. The organization suggests that the training will result in higher patient satisfaction levels for Medicare reimbursements, positioning the training as a business and marketing opportunity so more local health care agencies will participate.
Do you know of any innovative LGBT-senior care training in your community? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.
(Photo: Steve Moors)