Do LGBT Seniors Have to Go Back Into the Closet If They Go to A Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility?

January 6th, 2017 by Attorney Roger Weinberg

Society’s acceptance of those who are lesbians, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) has improved over the years, but that improvement hasn’t been seen in every nursing home and assisted living facility. Many in this community fear they can’t be themselves if they need to move into a Maryland long-term care facility as they age.

Like everyone else, as openly gay and lesbian people age they will need caregivers to help them, and many will move into assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Many will rely on friends and partners, but compared to the general population they are more likely to be single and without adult children to help them, according to research published by the National Institutes of Health, reported by PBS. That can cause problems for many in the LGBT community.

  • Long-term care facilities often lack trained staff and policies to discourage discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • As a result, seniors need to decide whether or not to hide their sexual orientation or face possible harassment by fellow residents or staff with more traditional views on sexuality and marriage.
  • There are about 1.5 million gay, lesbian and bisexual people older than 65 living in the country, and that number is expected to double by 2030.

A report on the issue was published in 2011 by six groups led by the National Senior Citizens Law Center. They surveyed 769 people, including LGBT older adults, family members or friends, social service providers and legal services providers. Of the total respondents, 328 people reported 853 instances of abuse, including:

  • Harassment by residents and staff
  • Refusal by facility staff to accept a medical power of attorney
  • Refusal by staff to use a preferred name and/or pronoun
  • Refusal to provide care
  • Wrongful transfer or discharge.

Respondents had low expectations of their treatment in a long-term care facility:

  • Almost nine in ten stated that they thought staff would discriminate against someone who publicly stated their sexual orientation.
  • Eight in ten responded they would expect mistreatment or bullying from other nursing home residents.
  • One in ten reported staff ignored a medical power of attorney when the agent was a resident’s partner.
  • Transgender elders in particular stated they experienced isolation and staff refusal to recognize their gender identities.

Gay and lesbian seniors need to deal with the same health issues as the rest of the country’s older population, but they also may be dealing with additional stressors, isolation or depression, Alexia Torke, an associate professor of medicine at Indiana University, told PBS.

  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual elders are at higher risk of mental health problems and disabilities, have higher rates of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and are more likely to delay health care.
  • Older gay men are disproportionately affected by some chronic diseases, including hypertension.

Under Maryland law, it would be illegal for a nursing home or assisted living facility to discriminate against a person because of their sexual orientation, because it’s illegal to discriminate on that basis when it comes to public accommodations and housing. If a facility allowed the abuse of a resident by staff or other residents or was involved in the neglect of a resident for any reason, including because of their sexual orientation or transgender status, the facility could be held legally accountable for their actions.

If you believe that your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect at a Maryland nursing home or assisted living facility, or has suffered because of his or her sexual orientation, and suffered an injury as a result, we can help you address the situation and seek compensation for those injuries. At the Law Offices of Roger S. Weinberg, you’ll find compassionate support and experienced advocates to help your family through the tough times. Call 410-825-3161 today to schedule a free consultation.

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