Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT seniors, have seen it all and then some. Many of them have spent their entire lives fighting for equal rights – they remember the police raid of Stonewall Inn in New York City, protests, bans preventing them from working for the U.S. government or serving in the military, and laws blocking them from getting married. Today, they’re finally seeing more protections for LGBT people than ever before, and support for equal rights is increasing across the United States. Yet, there still appears to be a gap in equality for LGBT seniors in long term care. Older LGBT people have reported discrimination in nursing homes, and some studies show that they face a higher risk of disability, disease, and depression as they age. However, at the same time, there is a large movement to protect LGBT elderly in long term care. Below, we’ve listed certain things older LGBT people should know when searching for long term care options.
Issues Impacting LGBT Seniors in Long Term Care
LGBT seniors in long term care all have different experiences, but in one popular study, about 22 percent of them said that they were afraid to be open with their senior care facility about being gay. Many witnessed or personally experienced discrimination by staff. In fact, almost 90 percent of seniors surveyed predicted that staff members would discriminate against them based on their sexual orientations or gender identities and 43 percent reported actual instances of mistreatment. The study ultimately found that more research should be done on the quality of care that is provided to LGBT seniors. Some experts even suggested that due to lack of awareness among nursing home staff, they may be unknowingly saying or doing things that make LGBT residents uncomfortable. Even if the staff does not discriminate, there is always the possibility of issues arising from other residents of the nursing home. Beyond the fear of discrimination and mistreatment, there lies the increased risk for certain health issues. Another study found that LGBT Americans over the age of 50 have an increased risk of disability, cardiovascular disease, depression, and social isolation. There are an estimated 1.1 million Americans over the age of 65 who identify as LGBT and that number is expected to double by 2060, according to a 2017 study.
Tips for LGBT Seniors in Selecting Long Term Care
If you identify as LGBT and you are searching for long term care, know that you have unique needs that should be met. When searching for LGBT long term care options, consider these tips:
Don’t go into a long-term care facility blind. If you are at a place financially where you can be selective about what retirement community you go to, ask questions. For example, inquire if they have any policies in place that protect LGBT residents, or ask them what training, if any, the staff has had in providing care to LGBT people. How they answer these questions will tell you whether or not they’re prepared to meet your unique needs. For example, some organizations specifically train senior care facilities to be more LGBT friendly. There is an organization called Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders (SAGE) that provides training to nursing homes through partnerships with groups such as the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL). This training is for the facility and its staff. SAGE has found, after completing training, that some nursing homes aren’t even aware that they have LGBT residents until after they take the course. Since discrimination can come from not only employees but also from other residents, it’s important to know how the nursing home plans to handle situations like that if they were to arise.
Know your Rights.
If you are already in a senior care setting and are experiencing discrimination or mistreatment, know that you have rights! If something is happening to you in long term care, or in any healthcare setting, that is making you uncomfortable, report it! Protections do exist for LGBT seniors, it’s just a matter of making sure that they are being enforced. Here are some things you should know about your rights as LGBT seniors in long term care:
- There are different protections in each state. Be aware of what LGBT protections exist in the state where you reside.
- Beyond your state and local laws, at the federal level, you are protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), which covers residential care facilities such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. FHA prohibits discrimination based on sex.
LGBT seniors in long term care – we want to hear from you! What are some questions or concerns you have about senior care options? Share with us in the comments below!