June was Pride Month, which brings awareness of the impact and the contributions that LGBTQ people have made throughout history. While it has been 47 years since the first Gay Pride marches took place in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, the fight for equality and for communities and workplaces, free from discrimination, continues. Care options for LGBTQ older people are no exception.
The older LGBTQ community faces unique challenges. These include:
• Avoiding or delaying healthcare due to stigma and fear of discrimination
• Difficulty finding suitable and affordable housing
• Legal and financial issues
• Concealment of sexual and gender identity, leading to social isolation
According to the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, there are 2.4 million LGBTQ adults over 50 years of age living in the United States and the number is expected to double by 2030.1 These individuals tend to have higher rates of mental health and physical problems than older heterosexual adults. Moreover, they are more apt to live alone and are less likely to have children caring for them. Options for housing may be limited and in elder care facilities and nursing home settings, LGBTQ older adults may experience discrimination from staff members, other residents, and even other residents’ family members.
Helping LGBTQ clients and their caregivers involves becoming educated on the resources available in the community, such as LGBTQ community organizations and inclusive religious networks. There are state and federal laws that prohibit housing discrimination and harassment. National organizations such as SAGE offer supportive services and resources for LGBTQ older adults and their caregivers, culturally sensitive training for service providers and LGBTQ organizations, and advocacy on a national level. Some organizations choose to display a rainbow flag or “Ally” icon on their websites or printed material to signal that they welcome LGBTQ people, as well as inclusive language on forms that acknowledge same-sex partnerships and families of choice.
While LGBTQ retirement communities and LGBTQ housing facilities are still few and far between, the segment is growing. The LGBT Aging Resources Clearinghouse provides listings for service providers, community and professional organizations, reports and articles.
arrangeCARE provides holistic, coordinated care to LGBTQ older people and helps people who are spouses, partners, family members, friends, and others caring for a LGBTQ person.