Challenges in LGBT Aging

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community is garnering a lot of national attention in recent months following the United States Supreme Court decision to recognize same-sex marriage. Advocacy groups have been working for years to recognize the unique needs of a growing sample within the community—LGBT elders. The Richmond Times-Dispatch recently profiled Bonnie Nemeth regarding her work experience at the Virginia ombudsman office. State ombudsman offices advocate for all residents in long-term care settings. Nemeth emphasized the need to fully understand the nature of relationships between LGBT residents and their loved ones, including the fact that they may not immediately volunteer information about that relationship, since they have frequently kept that information private. LGBT elders experience the same dilemmas as other elders concerning the complex issues of personal health and care giving, but do not always have planning in place to give their loved ones a significant role in the ill elder’s care.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch article notes, “But LGBT people face a dilemma straight people do not—if they have not already, should they disclose to a doctor or other health care providers that they are lesbian or gay or bisexual or transgender? Does it matter? Will it open the door to discrimination, or pave the way for better care and services?” This article can be found at http://www.richmond.com/life/health/article_38146247-6a61-5430-981f-43dc44051d9f.html?mode=story.

Filmmaker Stu Maddux also shines a light on these complex topics through his 2011 documentary, Gen Silent. Six LGBT elders are profiled over the course of one year. The film identifies challenges stemming from their family dynamics, and disparities in the care facilities. It also discusses the subjects’ fears about caregiver and peer discrimination and bullying. For more information on the film, including how to acquire it as an educational tool, visit www.gensilent.com.

In an effort to ensure more inclusive and safe environments for LGBT elders, the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging has developed both in-person and webinar trainings that highlight the LGBT experience and its impact on long term care settings and services. An outline of their offerings can be found at www.lgbtagingcenter.org/training/index.cfm. Utilize their website to learn more about what is offered in each state. The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is overseen by Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders (SAGE).

At Weatherby & Associates, PC we work to support the needs and goals of our aging clients, as they maneuver the health care system and aim to plan for their future and the future of their loved ones. For more information, please call 860-769-6938.

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