Long-Term Care Settings May Push Gay Seniors Back into the Closet

While seniors who are part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have seen many milestones reached over the past few decades, some continue to face challenges when it comes to receiving long-term care, a Sun Sentinel article reported. 

A national survey cited in the article found that 43% of the 769 LGBT seniors polled experienced mistreatment while receiving long-term care. Mistreatment these seniors face comes not only from care providers, but from other patients,  and facilities’ lack of education on the issue, according to the article. 

The Sun Sentinel reports:

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Yet while the debate about Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurants supporting anti-gay causes has made national news, advocates say the public is largely clueless about the extra pressures aging LGBT people face when they can no longer care for themselves. Gays also are more likely than their straight counterparts to face these pressures alone, as their lifestyle denied them life partnerships or estranged them from family.

“Stories from the Field,” the report that included the 2010 survey, found that the most common complaint was abuse or harassment of gay or lesbian residents by other residents, accounting for about one-fourth of the instances. It was followed by being abruptly discharged, about 20 percent of the cases; and verbal or physical harassment from staff.

More than three-fourths of the LGBT survey respondents said gay seniors would hide their sexual orientation if they ended up in institutional care.

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James Lopresti, clinical education director for SunServe in Wilton Manors, said sometimes facilities err not because they’re hostile but because “they just don’t know how to deal with it.”

One local assisted living center, when residents complained about having to live and eat with a gay person, moved the man to the memory ward, where management assumed the residents would be too confused to notice. But spending his days being the only mentally sharp person surrounded by cognitively impaired people was so depressing that the man eventually committed suicide, Lopresti said.

He’s developed a new program for SunServe, an LGBT social service agency, which will help long-term care facilities and home health agencies develop gay-sensitive policies, train staff and create welcoming environments. Gay and lesbian seniors searching for long-term care would be able to ask which providers participate in the program, Lopresti said

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Read the full article here

Written by Erin Hegarty