LGBT Seniors Face Special Challenges
The LGBT Seniors are facing a wide variety of challenges including LGBT senior care options, lack of family support, social isolation and reduced financial support.
Senior care facilities and home care providers are not always welcoming and friendly to LGBT seniors. While, they might not be openly hostile, the caregivers may lack sympathy or training to provide care to the LGBT community. Senior care facilities may force same-sex couples to live in separate rooms because they are not married. Additionally, resident seniors may create an unfriendly and discriminatory atmosphere. There are many seniors that still have a homophobic mind-set and are extremely conservative.
Some LGBT seniors face social isolation. Unfortunately, many LGBT seniors have no children or spouses. They are actually two times more likely to be single. This means that they will have to rely on neighbors, friends or strangers for all assistance. The pressure of finding help, at times, can even drive LGBT seniors back in the closet, especially when they have to find refuge in a senior facility that is unfriendly and unsympathetic to LGBT seniors. This causes the seniors to feel isolated socially and depressed.
Many long-term care and hospital facilities also deny visitation rights to same-sex partners. There are reports of same-sex partners visiting their partners during non-family visiting hours. One couple reportedly would go to the bathroom together just to hold hands so that they did not show affection in front of the staff. Unfortunately, this is a powerful metaphor of what a lot of LGBT seniors face.
In addition, financial resources for LGBT seniors are also much harder to come by. Due to many states marriage legislation, many LGBT seniors do not have access to their partners’ social security benefits. Many seniors did not have the opportunity to get married in a state where it is legal and therefore, they have to pay estate taxes. Pensions and 401K regulations and tax laws often discriminate against same-sex partners.
Approximately 90% of all senior care is provided by members of the family. Since many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered seniors do not have children and are estranged from their family, they do not have the added family financial support.
Although the demand is increasing for LGBT senior care, retirement communities are finding it more difficult to get funding for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. It is even more difficult in areas that are more conservative. One of the first LGBT retirement communities, RainbowVision Santa Fe, had to file for bankruptcy just 6 years after opening.
Moving Forward With LGBT Senior Care
Fortunately, senior care options for the LGBT community are growing. As the demand grows, more LGBT communities and home health care options will be available. The problem is the seniors that are in need of assistance NOW.
Thankfully, the internet is a great resource that has solved the distance problem. LGBT seniors and their loved ones can identify businesses and agencies that are welcoming to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Some agencies have attended training on how to provide sensitive and competent services to the LGBT community.
Times are changing. As more openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors retire, the more it will have to be accepted in the senior community. A stigma currently persists because seniors lived in an era when being homosexual was considered a mental illness or criminal act. The baby boomers will not have this stigma. They grew up in the 50s and 60s and they are used to claiming their rights. It is not going to be easy, as LGBT senior care is still an “uphill battle”. However, little by little, the senior care culture is changing to be more LGBT friendly. There is no reason that seniors need to go back in the closet just to get senior home care.