Creating an Inclusive Environment for LGBTQ Seniors in an Assisted Living Community
A goal among many long-term care facilities, including assisted living communities, is creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ seniors. In reality, striving towards a more inclusive environment in assisted living communities for LGBTQ seniors is proving to be a challenging battle in some instances. Whether you are a member of the LGBTQ community or not, you need to understand some essential facts associated with the quest for an inclusive environment for LGBTQ seniors in assisted living communities.
At the start of this discussion about creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ seniors in assisted living, we take a moment to look at a pair of studies about LGBTQ seniors:
- AARP Survey: Maintaining Dignity for LGBTQ Adults 45 and Older
- Sage Advocacy and Services for LGBTQ Seniors Report
AARP Survey: Maintaining Dignity for LBGTQ Adults 45 and Older
The AARP conducted a comprehensive survey which found some highly concerning statistics related to the aging LGBTQ population in the United States. Of the data gleaned from this survey, three matters are of particular importance:
- 75 percent of LGBTQ adults 45 years or older indicate that they are concerned about having appropriate or enough support from family or friends as they grow older
- A majority of LGBTQ adults in this age group are highly concerned about how they will be treated in long-term care facilities, including assisted living communities, if and when the time comes that they need this type of assistance
- Because of their concerns, a majority of LGBTQ adults want LGBTQ specific services, including long-term care facilities dedicated to the needs of their community
Sage Advocacy and Services for LGBTQ Seniors Report
Sage Advocacy and Services for LGBTQ Seniors has also amassed data about the needs of older members of the LGBTQ community. This information warrants consideration and includes the following:
- There are over 3 million LGBTQ adults over the age of 50 in the United States at this time
- The number of LGBTQ adults over the age of 50 is expected to more than double to 7 million by 2030
- LGBTQ seniors are 20 percent less likely to access programs for seniors (including assisted living and other types of living and care facilities – even when they need these services)
- LGBTQ seniors are twice as likely as members of the “straight community” to live alone
- LGBTQ seniors are three to four times less likely to have children than their straight counterparts.
- A remarkable 80 percent of older adults “go back into the closer” if they enter a senior living community (according to the study entitled Improving the Lives of LGBTQ Older Adults)
Barriers to Healthcare Generally and Long-Term Care Specifically for LGBTQ Seniors
The advocacy organizations mentioned a moment ago – AARP and Sage – have made it abundantly clear that LGBTQ seniors (and younger members of the LGBTQ community face substantial barriers to healthcare and long-term care access. According to these organizations, these barriers include:
- LGBTQ seniors are less likely to have health insurance coverage
- LGBTQ seniors are more likely to delay or not seek medical care
- LGBTQ seniors face more barriers to access as older adults due to isolation and a lack of culturally competent providers (one study found that 13 percent of older LGBTQ adults were denied or provided inferior health care)
- LGBTQ seniors are significantly more likely to delay or not get needed prescription medications
- LGBTQ seniors are considerably more likely to receive healthcare services in emergency rooms
- LGBTQ seniors fail to receive screenings, diagnoses, and treatment for important medical problems
- 22 percent of LGBTQ older adults do not reveal their sexual orientation to physicians
- In some states in the United States, healthcare providers can decline to treat or provide certain necessary treatments to individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity
- The treatment of LGBTQ seniors is particularly alarming in some long-term care facilities
- One study indicates elderly LGBTQ adults face distress from potentially hostile staff and fellow residents, denial of visits from partners and family of choice, and refusal to allow same-sex partners to room together
Toll of Societal Bias on LGBTQ Seniors
Societal biases of different types take an identifiable toll on members of the LGBTQ community in several different ways. These include:
- LBGTQ seniors are less likely to report having good health than their heterosexual counterparts
- More LBGTQ seniors are likely to have cancer
- More LBGTQ seniors are likely to suffer psychological distress
- More LBGTQ seniors are likely to require medication for emotional health issues
- Lesbian and bisexual women are less likely to receive mammograms and are more likely to be overweight or obese.
- 41% of LGBTQ adults age 50 and older have some diagnosed a disability
- Transgender adults are much more likely to have suicide ideation (thinking about suicide, making plans to commit suicide, and having the means to do so
Message to Assisted Living Communities and Other Long-Term Care Facilities
Considering the data provided by AARP and Sage, a message can be crafted for assisted living communities and other types of long-term care facilities in the United States. The message includes the following important points:
- Presume your community has LGBTQ residents. They may be “hiding” for fear of being treated poorly.
- If residents choose to share their sexual orientation and gender identity, discuss with them in a safe and confidential manner. Don’t assume identity by asking about a spouse or children. Instead, ask, “Who are the important people in your life?”
- Create an opening for LGBTQ residents to talk about family members of their choice. Be sure proper documents are in place for sharing protected information with those people with whom the senior wants it shared.
A growing number of assisted living communities and other types of long-term care facilities are working to be more inclusive and accommodating to the needs of members of the LGBTQ community. A more concerted effort is being made at an assisted care to provide members of the LGBTQ community with the services, care, and assistance they need regardless of their identity.