Study Reveals LGBT Elders’ Concerns about Senior Housing

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 28 June 2011

Moving to a new home is an adjustment that can be thrilling, terrifying, and tiring all at once. Besides the stress of packing, selling, buying and unpacking, relocating means you have to find a new dentist, doctor, school, bank, grocery store and other essentials – the whole 9. You have to get to know your neighbors all over again. You have to figure out how to drive to the new bank, school or grocery store.

But the thing about a move is this: in most cases, it’s planned. It’s purposeful. It’s a transition over which you have some control. Yes, there are a lot of logistics and learning curves, but you knew that going into it. Learning a new place can be exciting too.

Now a transition to senior living – moving from a home, apartment, or some other housing arrangement – into a one- or two-bedroom apartment in a building full of mostly strangers – think about how terrifying that must be, especially when the decision may have been outside of the individual’s control (illness, injury, death of a spouse, etc.), or something they didn’t choose.

LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) elders have their own unique set of apprehensions to face in a senior living move, as per a recent study conducted at New York’s Yeshiva University. Many LGBT residents have committed suicide because of abuse and discrimination suffered at the hands of both staff and fellow residents, says this Hospice & Nursing Homes Blog article by Frances Shani Parker.

The Yeshiva University study reports that the participants interviewed (who currently live either in the community or in a long-term care setting) expressed fears about the following:

1) Fear of being rejected or neglected by healthcare providers, particularly personal care aides

2) Fear of not being accepted or respected by other residents

3) Fear of having to go back into the closet and pretend their sexual orientation is different

While some new “separate but equal” housing projects are under construction (in May, we wrote about the first CCRC designed for the LGBT community, which recently broke ground in California), the pace is slow and the need is great.

However, separate but equal housing is only part of the solution. Says Frances Shani Parker, there is also a tremendous need for training among long-term care providers and staff to present unbiased, compassionate care – regardless of sexual orientation – and policy changes that would have a positive impact on LGBT elders’ quality of life.

So if you’re helping someone you know make a transition to senior living, be sensitive to the fact that the adjustment may take time, particularly if there are apprehensions about their quality of life as a result of different lifestyle choices. And, if you are supporting an LGBT elder with a senior care decision, be aware of these fears and seek out a senior community that delivers equitable, compassionate care – which is a good rule of thumb for anyone making this move.

-Michelle Seitzer


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