In honor of Pride in San Diego this month, we’d like to discuss a topic of concern in the community: providing the support that is needed for aging LGBTQ adults. It is estimated that the population of LGBTQ adults in America over the age of 65 will double by 2030, reaching a level of more than 3 million people across the country. As the older LGBTQ population grows, there are unique challenges that need to be addressed so that our society is prepared to support the needs of full diversity in the aging population:
- Caregiving and Decision Making: Unfortunately, many LGBTQ partners and their families of choice aren’t recognized by the law, which means that family members don’t have access to medical leave to take care of a sick partner. Additionally, in the absence of a health care advance directive, decision-making can be limited to immediate family members. This can negatively affect the partner’s ability to care for their loved one.
- Health Care: Nationally, up to 80% of long-term care for aging adults is provided by family members and relatives. LGBTQ elders, however, don’t always have close family members to lean on for assistance. As a result, they need to rely on the services of hospital, assisted living, and home care professionals who may have little or no training in working with LGBTQ older adults. In addition, paying for professional care is more costly than receiving care from family members.
- Cultural Competency of Care Providers: Even if the person has access to health care, about 20% of LGBTQ people avoid medical care because they are afraid of discrimination. Overcoming these cultural barriers is essential so that everyone feels comfortable seeking medical care when needed.
- Health Disparities: Overall, LGBTQ individuals have lower rates of health insurance coverage. Health problems might occur and persist because of disparities in health care access, an HIV/AIDS diagnosis, and/or other chronic physical or mental health conditions. These disparities need to be corrected so that LGBTQ older adults have access to the health care services they need.
- Housing Discrimination: It is common for older LGBTQ couples to be victimized by discrimination when looking for rental or senior housing options. Many individuals feel they need to re-closet themselves in senior housing to avoid the discriminating treatment from staff.
Everyone deserves to receive quality care and support during all stages in life. If you are in need of services, or if you know a friend or family member who needs help, then reach out to our team at Windward Life Care. With our membership in the Greater San Diego LGBT Health & Wellness Referral Network, we can help you with advance care planning; healthcare advocacy; and finding the appropriate resources in the area to support your needs.