If you work in a senior care setting, you are in a unique position to promote equality, encourage diversity and cultivate inclusivity. You can be a change agent in improving the quality of life for those who have lived in a prolonged state of vulnerability and marginalization. LGBT seniors deserve to feel safe being exactly who they are, wherever they live. Moreover, they deserve to rest assured that their needs and desires will be met without any discrimination or bias.
Follow these steps to create an LGBT-friendly senior care community:
Make your welcome clear
It is currently legal in 23 states to deny housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity (meaning there is no statewide law or policy). Understandably, LGBT seniors may be anxious about seeking care outside of their own home. In fact, in a 2011 national survey of LGBT adults in long-term care, 89% predicted that staff would discriminate based on their sexual orientations or gender identities. Additionally, 43% reported instances of mistreatment.
If your senior care home is LGBT-affirming and welcoming, make sure that you display this clearly. Care Planning Software helps care providers market progressive, person-centered care. Have credentials or inclusivity signposted on your website, printed marketing materials, social media pages, and advertisements. Agencies that display LGBT ageing training credentials will be positioned to attract these 7 million individuals who will be 65 or older by 2030.
Get involved in advocacy
From signing pledges and speaking out online, to calling your elected officials and marching in rallies, there are many ways to fight for and advocate on behalf of older LGBT people in your community and around the world. Find out more by visiting SAGE, Diverse Elders Coalition or MAP.
Train your staff
Cultural competence training is essential for caregivers. It better prepares them to fully serve LGBT older adults, without relying on the individual, or their friends and family to educate a caregiver. Having staff undergo this training sends a clear message to LGBT individuals that they are recognized and cared for. There are cultural competency training programs like SAGECare.
Combat social isolation
Consider providing space and support for LGBT-specific programming in your community center or care home. If this isn’t possible, find communities in your area they can connect with. Ensure there is a safe place for them to meet with friends who visit. Ask questions and show you care. Additionally, find ways your care community can participate together in LGBT events.
Have a zero-tolerance policy
“It’s become abundantly clear that there are a lot of elders who feel they have to go back in the closet when they enter nursing homes or any care facility,” said Ms. Audrey Weiner, CEO of New Jewish Home in a New York Times article.
Consider having a strict zero tolerance policy for discriminatory behavior, like Pat Giorgio, president and CEO of Evergreen Estates in Cedar Rapids, IA. Giorgio says that the residents of her care community must sign a contract that delineates both their rights and their obligations, including treating others with dignity.
“You cannot allow it to exist or it will poison the community. They don’t get off the hook just because they’re older. They have to respect others.”