Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals acting as caregivers share many of the same challenges as all family caregivers, but they also have some unique needs. A study conducted in 2015 by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP found that LGBT-identified caregivers make up 9% of the 34 million Americans providing unpaid care to adults over the age of 50.
According to the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, many caregivers in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities may not self-identify as “caregivers” even when providing everyday assistance to friends, partners, spouses or loved ones. This can prevent them from seeking support and resources.
LGBT caregivers typically have fewer social supports than other family caregivers, and they are more likely to care for individuals in their own age range. These conditions can lead to a greater risk of “burn-out,” including physical and mental health challenges. LGBT individuals already experience health disparities in comparison to the general population, so self-care is particularly important for LGBT family caregivers.
Resources for LGBT Family Caregivers
Advance directives such as a Power of Attorney for Healthcare are extremely important for everyone 18 and older, especially for LGBT individuals who may wish to designate a health care proxy or decision-maker who is not their next of kin. Putting these wishes in writing is crucial to ensure that patients’ wishes are respected in health care settings.
Most states, including California, have passed version of the CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act which mandates hospitals to ask each patient upon admission if they would like to designate someone as their caregiver. This does not have to be a spouse or biological family member. The hospital must notify the designated caregiver about the discharge plan, and provide discharge instruction to that person. LGBT individuals who are hospitalized should be aware of and exercise this right to choose their caregiver.
There are many avenues for LGBT family caregivers to obtain emotional support, such as through the SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline (1-888-234-SAGE); through local non-profit organizations providing counseling services like The Center in San Diego; and through local support groups for family caregivers such as those offered by Alzheimer’s San Diego and Southern Caregiver Resource Center.
Fortunately, many organizations serving older adults are doing a better job of creating welcoming environments for LGBT clients and their family caregivers, and asking appropriate questions to identify those caregivers who would benefit from additional help.
Windward Life Care’s clinical team is here to support LGBT family caregivers with professional consultation, resource connection, and respite services. Just call us to discuss how we can help.