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Caring for LGBTQ+ Elders

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When caring for elderly loved ones, you must make many difficult decisions. Determining what your loved one needs and how you can best provide for them is daunting, and for LGBTQ+ elders, it can be more challenging to ensure they are safe and supported as they age. 

Here are some tips on how to considerately care for your LGBTQ+ loved ones and ensure that they are protected legally.

Dealing with Lack of Trust

For both family members and professional caretakers, it can be hard to watch LGBTQ+ elderly individuals try to hide a part of themselves, but it’s important to understand that this is likely a defense mechanism they have been relying on for almost their entire lives. 

While it is important that family members and professionals show their support for the LGBTQ+ community in general terms, you should not push them to come out and should respect their boundaries. Use subtle cues to show that you are a safe person but remember that being a safe person means being there for them on their terms.

Additionally, many LGBTQ+ elders have seen their community discriminated against by the legal and medical systems time and again, so they have decided it’s best to avoid these systems altogether. But this does not keep them safe. While reintroducing LGBTQ+ elders to these systems may take time for them, keeping them safe and protected is vital.

As a loved one of an LGBTQ+ elder, finding the balance between advocating for and talking over them can be difficult, especially if they’re trying to hide their identity from you. In situations like this, it is important to make sure you are really listening to your loved one, do not try to force what you think is best on them. Of course, as they age it can be harder to identify what it is they want, which is why it is important to begin having these conversations early.

For professional caretakers, it’s your responsibility to educate yourself so you’re prepared to work with LGBTQ+ elders when they enter your facility or engage with your services. Look for local organizations that conduct trainings on best practices and procedures to use when working with LGBTQ+ elders. 

Discrimination in the Medical System

Although the medical system is very different than the one your loved ones grew up in, sadly, that does not mean that is completely free of discrimination. Elderly individuals can be incredibly vulnerable to abuse, and for LGBTQ+ elders, this risk is even higher. Ensuring your loved one is protected begins when you start looking for a long-term care provider.

You may find that the intake process and many long-term care facilities are very rushed, especially if you are relying on Medicare. Remember that your loved one is entitled to a safe transition and that you, as the advocate, should push for more time. Slowing down the process will allow you to take your time and find the best fit for them.

Finding a reliable provider starts with looking at the ratings provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Medicare ratings, and reviews left by other users. Once you have limited your options, visit the facilities and make calls. Pay special attention to the cleanliness of a facility and how residents are cared for. Do not be afraid to ask questions. A qualified facility should be prepared to answer any questions you may have about how they care for LGBTQ+ elders. If they seem thrown off by your questions, consider another option.

Of course, these measures do not guarantee the safety of your loved one. You should regularly check in on them and know what the signs of discrimination are. If you notice changes in their mood or have any reason to suspect they are not being treated well, act immediately! 

Elderly individuals may be hesitant to change providers but keep in mind that they are not trapped anywhere, and their safety is worth it. Once your loved one is out and safe, you should contact a lawyer to discuss a discrimination case.

Protecting Your Loved Ones with Legal Documents

As an advocate for an LGBTQ+ elder, you may feel like you need to always be with your loved one to ensure their wishes are being respected. But ultimately, this is not possible. The point of long-term care facilities is that you do not have to fill the role of caregiver 24/7 but to feel comfortable stepping back. To accomplish this, you need to know that their wishes are clear.

The best way to ensure a long-term care facility is respecting your loved one’s wishes is through protective legal documents. The documents that are most important to have for an LGBTQ+ elder entering long-term care are advanced medical directives (AMD) and HIPPA authorizations. 

An advanced medical directive appoints someone to make medical decisions for another when that person is no longer able to do so on their own. It also states a person’s wishes about receiving certain medical treatments. This ensures that doctors and care staff know how to treat your loved one. 

A HIPPA authorization acknowledges who has access to your loved one’s medical and health information. This authorization ensures that all people whom the individual names, even if they are not related to a patient, can be given information about their health. 

Conversely, it ensures that patients can keep their medical information private from those whom they wish to restrict it. Together, AMD and HIPPA authorization give care professionals clear guidance when treating an elderly patient. Even if you are not considering long-term care now, these documents are important to have for anyone at any age.

Key Takeaways for Caring for LGBTQ+ Elders

  • Do not push an LGBTQ+ elder to come out, meet them where they are, and respect their decision to keep their identity private.
  • Remember that many LGBTQ+ elders have faced decades of discrimination; use subtle cues to single that you are a safe and affirming person
  • Take care and time when selecting long-term care facilities for LGBTQ+ elders, and if you believe for any reason that your loved one may not be safe there, look for other options.
  • Ensure that your loved one has their legal documents in order to ensure that their wishes for care and medical treatment are known and respected.

The Geller Law Group can help you navigate legal issues related to caring for LGBTQ+ elders, including preparing necessary legal documents for your loved one. Contact us at to learn how we may help you.

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