Quality Care and Support for LGBTQ Aging Adults

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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.

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Summer Heat Safety for Older Adults

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The heat can be uncomfortable for people of all ages, but older adults are prone to heat stress, which can be a dangerous situation if left untreated. As a result, seniors can experience several heat-related health problems when the weather warms up outside.

Whether you are caring for your own health or you are a caregiver for another adult, it is important that you are proactive to stay safe in the heat.

Why Older Adults are at Risk

Why is the risk higher for older adults? Often, seniors have medical conditions that affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Some chronic conditions can change the body’s response to heat.

Certain medications might have an impact on how the body sweats. For example, diuretics can increase the risk of dehydration due to water loss. Heart disease impacts the blood circulation, which makes it harder for the body to dissipate the heat.

Older adults’ sense of thirst also diminishes with the aging process. Feeling less thirsty, combined with some seniors’ difficulties with incontinence, can lead many people to avoid drinking water and other fluids. This increases their chances of becoming dehydrated which can lead to hospitalization.

Prevention is Important

Don’t wait for symptoms to occur before taking action against the heat. Being proactive is the best solution to prevent health complications:

  • Stay in an air-conditioned area as much as possible during the day.
  • Increase water consumption. Drink consistently throughout the day instead of waiting until you are thirsty.
  • Wear clothing that is loose-fitting and light in color.
  • If you are feeling warm, take a cool bath or shower to lower your body temperature.
  • Minimize physical activities, especially when you are spending time outside.
  • Use window coverings to keep the heat of the sun out of the room.
  • Turn on the air conditioner, even if it increases the utility bills; or, go to a public library, indoor mall or San Diego County-sponsored “Cool Zone.”
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol which can increase the risk of dehydration.

If you have an aging neighbor or family member, then it is smart to check in regularly to make sure they are staying cool. In the situation where the power is lost, it is essential to offer assistance to help the person get to a cooler place.

When to See a Doctor

Certain symptoms might indicate that it is necessary to see a doctor: strong or rapid pulse, feeling faint, confusion, increase in body temperature, or dry, flushed skin.

Whether you have questions about heat-related symptoms or you need assistance with other medical concerns, Windward Life Care is here to assist. We can help you find the right resources to match your needs. Call to learn about the services that we provide.

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