Seniors face a wide range of issues as they age, and challenges are even greater for seniors who identify as LGBT. According to the AARP, the number of LGBT adults over the age of 65 will double in a few years, reaching over three million by 2030. In 2017, a Pew Forum poll showed that over half of that generation now approves of same-sex marriage, compared to only 35 percent in 2001. While victories for the LGBT community continue to increase, LGBT seniors nonetheless face unique concerns — including within the home care industry.
Five Main Concerns of LGBT Seniors
1. Legal and Financial
LGBT seniors are more likely to be discriminated against in their careers, resulting in fewer financial resources during their older years. Because they have no legal protection, couples may not be given medical leave to care for a dying partner or allowed to enroll minor children in a family insurance plan. They also run the risk of not being able to participate in medical decisions or end-of-life plans, making it important for them to prepare legal documents expressing their wishes and authorizing care before a crisis arises.
Statistics show that eight of ten older people depend on family members for basic home care services, but LGBT seniors are far less likely than their peers to have immediate family. Instead, they depend on paid home caregivers and medical professionals, some of whom are hesitant to help or treat them poorly. SAGE, an advocacy group for LGBT seniors, says the fear of being treated unkindly or discriminated against keeps many from asking for home caregiving when they need it.
Members of the LGBT community are more apt to isolate themselves at any age, but the situation is even worse among older people. According to SAGE, over half of lesbian or gay seniors feel cut off from other people, and 40 percent say they have tried to commit suicide. With research that says that loneliness is as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, the dangers of this level of seclusion are even more obvious.
Most LGBT seniors have faced years of physical or emotional abuse, bullying, or discrimination, and many stay hidden to protect themselves. This makes them more susceptible to bad habits and hampers their self-care. As a result, they get less exercise, drink more alcohol, and are 68% more likely to smoke cigarettes, making issues like depression, malnutrition, or lack of care even more serious.
4. Aging Services
Access to aging services can be a challenge for any older adult, but LGBT seniors are also concerned with confidentiality and bullying. Too often, program employees or other participants resist reaching out or behave in ways that make them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
Attitudes are slowly changing, and The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging now offers cultural competency training for home caregiving. The classes explore the meaning of the term LGBT, provide personal stories and experiences, and teach specific skills and sensitivity awareness. The website offers free, on-demand presentations on topics like building respect and best practices for unique needs. Alegre Home Care also offers training for the caregiving of LGBT seniors.
LGBT individuals of all ages face discrimination when it comes to housing, but the issue is particularly poignant for the elderly. Many have been harassed all their lives and want only to be left alone. In a world with increasingly polarizing rhetoric, people who live closeted lives can be easy prey as they age. Sadly, many are afraid to share their stories, and no one really knows how bad the situation may be.
For those who have a safe home, highly trained home caregivers offer an alternative to meeting daily needs, such as basic care and a personal connection. From transportation to a doctor’s office to providing a friendly ear, culturally sensitive home caregivers who understand LGBT issues are needed in the caregiving field. At the present, these people may be hard to find, but some agencies — such as Alegre Home Care — are stepping in to meet the demand.
Home Care Services for LGBT Seniors
Alegre Home Care is an agency that truly understands home care services. An LGBT-certified business, we have all the qualifications to serve the LGBT population with integrity and compassion. We are the only LGBT Certified Home Care Agency in Northern California, in addition to being 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. For more information, contact us at one of our many locations.