When it comes to the care of aging loved ones, there are often many concerns voiced by the individuals, themselves, as well as their family members and friends. This is especially true in the case of seniors who make up a part of LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community. As LGBT seniors are part of a demographic that has historically placed them in the way of prejudices and abuse, being able to address their concerns in an honest and straightforward way is paramount to providing quality home caregiving services.
In many cases, LGBT seniors often put off utilizing assistive home care due to fear or uncertainty. It must be remembered that the current group of LGBT seniors have lived through monumental changes in the social perception of their lifestyle. Most, if not all of these individuals, have been the target of at least some form of prejudice due to their sexual orientation and this often leads to anxiety in discussing this facet of their personal lives as well as their need for ongoing assistance with the home caregiver or other team members. To best address the situation, let's understand some of the issues that are often brought up by these seniors and their loved ones.
Confidentiality and the LGBT Senior
As previously mentioned, the current group of seniors who now require the assistance of a home caregiver have lived through some amazing transformations in society. Unfortunately, many of them bear the physical and emotional scars of the journey. They have faced hate crimes and stigma for the simple fact that they are wired to love differently than the majority of people. Due to this fact, many have led very secretive lives and, in some cases, they may have not even "outed" themselves to friends and family members yet.
As home caregivers, this poses special confidentiality concerns that go above the normal privacy expectations of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). When dealing with members of the LGBT community, a home caregiver needs to take the utmost care to ensure their privacy and confidentiality on all matters, just as they would for any other client. This need for discretion also falls over into discussions with the senior's friends and family, as these people may not know about the individual's lifestyle and sexual orientation. Unless the senior being cared for has specifically authorized discussion of their orientation with a friend or family member, the topic remains off limits to the home caregiving agency staff and it would not be appropriate to reveal this information.
Tensions Within the Family Unit
Caregivers for LGBT seniors need to realize that their client’s sexual orientation may have been kept secret for many years and that their choice to "come out" to family and friends may have been met with some opposition. In some cases, these seniors have raised their children in heterosexual households and then revealed their LGBT status many years later. Often, this has been a point of contention among families and scandal in the local community. While we all like to think of the family as a support unit, this, unfortunately, isn't always the case for many LGBT individuals, especially those who chose to reveal their status later in life.
This can be a particularly difficult area for the home caregiver because they want to provide the best care for their clients and this would include emotional support. However, a caregiver's role is not to take sides in family arguments but to provide care and support for their client to the best of their ability. Again, discretion and confidentiality play major factors as the senior's family affairs are not to be made public knowledge or discussed with friends or family who have not been made privy to the information by the client.
*** There is a caveat to this point, however; In cases of adult abuse, the caregiver may be mandated by law to report the abuse to the proper local authority. Adult abuse can include both verbal and physical abuse.
Religion, Politics, and LGBT Seniors
As any home caregiver knows, the elderly can be very opinionated about religion and politics. For the LGBT senior, these two topics may be very hot issues. The majority of religions have opposed the LGBT community for centuries and harbored prejudices that led to many cruel and unusual practices. While the individual may have a religious faith, they may also deal with guilt, resentment or other feelings as a result of that faith. Some religions are becoming more accepting of the LGBT community as time goes on but this is another case of the current group waging the battle for acceptance. For example, it was 1972 before the first openly gay person was ordained within a mainstream Protestant religion when William Johnson received his ordination from the Church of Christ. Forty five years later, in 2017, the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus was still fighting for their members to be recognized by the United Methodist Church for ordination.
Politics is also a very sensitive area for many LGBT seniors because they have lived through a time when their freedoms and rights were severely limited by legislation. Looking at the history of LGBT rights in the United States alone is evidence for the sensitivity. For example, the Society for Human Rights was the first gay rights organization to form in the United States in 1924 but it took nearly half a century before the first openly gay or lesbian candidates were elected to public office in the early 1970's. In fact, during the same year (1972) that homosexual candidates were finally finding their way into public office, the state of Maryland created a law banning homosexual marriages. It was also in that year that Camille Mitchell became the first openly lesbian woman to win custody of her children in a divorce. The victory was not without costs though. The judge in the case ordered that her lesbian lover was not allowed to reside with Mitchell or her children. It would be another forty three years, in 2015, when homosexual marriages became legal in all fifty states of the U.S.
As a caregiver for an LGBT individual, it is easy to see how this long, uphill battle for acceptance may have an affect on an LGBT senior’s views of religion and politics at this stage in their lives.
Work With An LGBT Certified Home Care Agency
A home care agency that truly understands the needs of LGBT seniors is one that is an LGBT certified business. This makes Alegre Home Care well qualified to serve the LGBT population, as we are the only LGBT Certified Home Care Agency in Northern California and are also recognized by the Business Times as the largest LGBT company in the San Francisco Bay area. We even go one step further by ensuring that all of our home caregivers have completed LGBT Cultural Humility Training.
Caring for LGBT seniors can be a very rewarding experience. These individuals have a wonderful perspective on how the world and society has evolved over the past century. Providing proper attention to their special needs and concerns is key to unlocking the door to assisting them within the home care setting.