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LGBTI Individuals ‘Avoid’ Aged Care

November 3, 2014 0 Comments

LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) Individuals are hesitant to disclose their sexuality or gender identity to aged care providers. This is because they have experienced profound harassment and discrimination throughout their lives due to their sexuality.

For the majority of elderly LGBTI people, social isolation and therefore poor health outcomes are the norm. Yet, for those who live in remote areas and those who have dementia, the challenges faced are even more pronounced.

Last week, many elderly LGBTI individuals, aged care providers, researchers and policy makers all gathered in the Melbourne Town Hall to attend an event which aims to support providers in delivering LGBTI inclusive services.

For the first time, the conference heard what researchers had to say regarding their study on LGBTI people who are living with dementia.

Teresa Chorazyczewski and Sally Lambourne from Alzheimer’s Australia interviewed older LGBTI individuals with dementia with the goal to identify the unique services that the older LGBTI population requires.

One of the prominent challenges of elderly LGBTI people was social isolation. They also lacked the opportunities of being in contact with other LGBTI people.

Sally Lambourne of Alzheimer’s Australia says, “LGBTI seniors grew up in a time when disclosing resulted in being sacked, being rejected, being disowned by family; the implications of this are that LGBTI people will avoid routine health checks due to these past negative experiences.”

Due to this, elderly LGBTI individuals are likely to be diagnosed much later than other people.

Lambourne stated that many LGBTI elderly are living a closeted life by necessity.

“We are finding in the research that people believe it’s wrong to flaunt your gayness, people who do are ‘asking for trouble’. There seems to be a real fear of offending others for being who you are,” Lambourne adds.

Another highlight of the conference was the “incredibly challenging environments” that remote areas were for LGBTI people, as this affects the will of a LGBTI individual to seek aged care services and social support.

Both Kylie Stephens, Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health at the University of Melbourne, and Dr Rachel Richardson, Charles Sturt University, says that there are little visible signs of diversity in remote communities and the services offered were likely not to respond to the needs of a minority group, such as LGBTI individuals.

According to the study, the irony is that LGBTI seniors are most unlikely to reveal their sexual orientation unless services demonstrated inclusivity.

Kylie Stephens says that there is the fear of isolation and loneliness amongst LGBTI seniors, who were likely to have a smaller support system and social connections.

Older LGBTI people in rural areas were more likely to request access to the internet, as this gives them a source of support of information. However, in many remote aged care homes, internet access remains an issue.

According to Dr Richardson, “The virtual world is very much part of the trans world because, for many of us, we have remained hidden for many, many years and the only place we can discuss openly how we feel has been the internet.”

Kylie Stephens enforced that lack of choice was a “definite rural issue” and that there is real fear around it.

“Travelling from the country to the city for service and support is especially common if not essential for trans women and men, but what happens as we age and travel becomes more problematic, especially without those social supports.”

One of the potential solutions to this issue is to have aged care providers to advocate, on behalf of their LGBTI clients, and educate themselves so they will be more accustomed to their social and health needs.

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