Today I would like to talk about nursing home/assisted living care for LGBT seniors. I know it is not as hyped up as same-sex marriage, and despite what you may have heard, from the Far Right, Queer people do reach old age.
In a 2010 study, 769 individuals participated, in order to better understand the issues LGBT elders face while in long term care. 284 of the individuals identified themselves as LGBT elders while the remaining individuals were friends, family, social service, legal, health care providers or simply identified themselves as other. 328 people reported 853 cases of abuse. Only 22% of LGBT elders and 16% of non-LGBT people felt it was safe to come out as LGBT while in a long term care facility. Thereby showing, that for many LGBT people, that were out and proud for several years feel they have to go back into the closet. Below is an example of a couple going back into the closet.
Two friends of mine, Vera and Zayda, had been together for 58 years. When Vera’s Alzheimer’s became too much, Zayda moved her to an assisted living facility. Zayda could barely trust family or neighbors with the truth, let alone strangers, so she and Vera became “sisters.” Much later, after Vera’s death, Zayda needed to move into an assisted living facility herself. She had many, many photos of the love of her life, but dared not display them in her new home. The other residents would talk about husbands, children and grandchildren, but she felt too vulnerable to tell the truth. Zayda was in hiding and terribly isolated.
—Nina L., Carlsbad, CA
The breakdown of the 853 cases of abuse are as followed: verbal or physical harassment from other residents 23%, refused admission or re-admission attempted or abrupt discharge 20%, verbal or physical harassment from staff 14%, staff refused to accept medical power of attorney from resident’s spouse or partner 11%, restriction of visitors 11%, staff refused to refer to transgender resident by preferred name or pronoun 9%, staff refused to provide basic services or care 6%, and staff denied medical treatment 6%. Also keep in mind that many residents have dementia or lack the ability to communicate the abuse that is inflicted upon them and many others are too afraid to tell because of fear that the abuse will only get worse. We also need to keep in mind that many LGBT elders do not have friends and/or family to look out for their interest. In fact many LGBT elders receive farther abuse from their family.
I have been haunted for years by what happened to two lesbian friends of mine. They had been “married” for more than 50 years, when they both fell ill. Their families sent them to separate nursing facilities despite all protests. They each shortly passed away. It was heartbreaking!
—Vicky Esperanza, wife of a minister,
Metropolitan Community Church, Des Moines, IA
So what can be done to help our LGBT elders to get the care they deserve? We can push for cities to require diversity training for long term care provider staff. We can volunteer within local nursing homes and report violations to the authorities, if they occur. You can also volunteer in organizations such as SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders).
To read the complete finding of the study go to:
For Volunteer opportunities please go to:
or contact a local nursing home in your area.