A recent study at the University of Miami found that nearly 75% of all elder care service providers reported having members of the LGBT community as clients. Yet, less than 33% of these service providers had any type of specialized training geared towards the needs of seniors in this community. This study has prompted a new initiative in Florida called the “Protect Our Elders” campaign, aimed at addressing common problems that prevent elderly members of the LGBT community from seeking elder care.
Results of the Study
The University of Miami surveyed 48 facilities and agencies throughout southern Florida that provide some type of elder care services. This included hospitals, nursing homes, care facilities, churches, libraries, and more. Of those surveyed, 83% of the facilities and agencies said that not only would they be willing to offer LGBT training but that they also think that their employees would be interested.
In addition 92% of agencies that cater specifically to seniors responded that they would host LGBT competency training. Health care agencies were the least responsive to LGBT training, with only two-thirds of the agencies saying that they would be willing to offer this type of training.
Protect Our Elders Initiative
Advocates in southern Florida estimate that nearly 43,000 LGBT residents in the area are 65 years old or older. The study was commissioned after many in that community mentioned situations where they went for elder care services but felt mistreated or uncomfortable. Others were fearful of moving into a long-term care facility and stayed in their homes much longer than they should because they feared going back “into the closet” if they went to a nursing home.
The initiative plans to give introductory training to southern Florida agencies and service providers at no charge with follow-up programs offered for a small fee. If the initiative is successful, they plan to expand the program to other states. The Protect Our Elders campaign also plans to create a directory of LGBT-friendly senior care companies, home health care agencies, retirement homes, and the like by 2016.
The Need for LGBT Training
The main reason why agencies said that they did not offer LGBT training in the past was that there was a perceived lack of a need for LGBT training, and it was not a priority in their organization. However, elderly LGBT residents come from a generation where being gay could cost you a job or worse, and many still refer to their partners as their cousin or roommate. Seniors that identify as LGBT have heightened fears of isolation, dwindling finances, and loneliness because of a lack of children or estrangement from family members.
Thankfully, other organizations are also helping to train elder care service providers on LGBT issues. SAGE, a national LGBT rights organization, has created a cultural competency program that is being implemented at some organizations in south Florida. SunServe, Compass, and the Pride Center also plan on developing LGBT training with the Protect Our Elders campaign as well as develop more elder care services for members of the gay senior population.