Families of Choice: Support for All Caregivers

Americans are living longer than ever before, so it is natural that more focus is being placed on caregiver support for aging adults. Older adults across the United States share many of the same health conditions and caregiving needs, but unique concerns need to be addressed for those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

Caregiving Through Families of Choice

When non-LGBT older adults need support, they usually turn to their spouse, a child, or another relative. On the other hand, LGBT older adults frequently do not have the same familial support. They may even be estranged from biological family members because their gender identity and/or sexual orientation is not accepted by the family.

Compared to their non-LGBT peers, an aging LGBT person is often:

  • Twice as likely to age as a single person
  • Twice as likely to live by themselves
  • Three to four times less likely to have children who can provide caregiving support

“Families of choice” is a common model of caregiving in the LGBT community. Though LGBT older adults don’t always have the same level of support from biological family members, strong social networks are often developed among friends, neighbors and partners.

Designating a Healthcare Decision Maker

Caregivers in LGBT families of choice are entitled to certain protections. The Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act was implemented on May 13, 2016, as a way to enable caregivers to participate in their their loved one’s healthcare. This act has specific protections to eliminate discrimination against LGBT patients in health programs, facilities, or medical services receiving federal funding.

For example, the CARE Act requires that hospitals include the caregiver in the patients’ medical records and also convey important health information the caregiver will need to care for the patient upon discharge. This is particularly important in the LGBT community when the selected caregiver is frequently not a “next of kin,” biological family member.

For LGBT older adults who are not relying on their biological families for support, it is particularly important to designate a legal decision-make or Power of Attorney for Health Care. It is legal for a non-family caregiver can act in the role of a healthcare decision-maker; however, many people are not aware that they must designate this decision-maker in writing so they can legally make decisions in the event of the patient’s incapacity. If you or a loved one is in the LGBT community, then it is particularly mportant to create a healthcare advanced directive before a crisis situation, like a hospitalization, occurs.

Support for Caregivers

At Windward Life Care, we are committed to providing services and information that embrace diversity and support the needs of all types of families. If you are looking for services or providers, our team is here to help. Call to learn more about available services.