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LGBTQ+ older adults residing in nursing homes need culturally appropriate, inclusive ways – study

More and more LGBTQ+ older adults are comfortable being out with their providers, while many living in nursing homes fear unwanted disclosure of their sexual orientation or gender identity status. Their autonomy should be respected either way so they can age in an environment where they feel safe, where they feel comfortable and where they are able to live with dignity.

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There have been few studies of LGBTQ+ older adults residing in nursing homes. A new article from faculty of Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University explores care of the growing number of LGBTQ+ older adults living in these facilities. The paper highlights the experiences and needs of this population, outlines best facility practices and presents valuable resources for culturally appropriate and inclusive care.

Social isolation, limited community supports, dementia, decreased functional abilities, economic limitations and delays in care are among the many reasons an LGBTQ+ individual is admitted to nursing homes.

“We think about younger LGBTQ+ individuals and the challenges and risks of their lifestyles, but older adults in this population are often forgotten,” said article corresponding author and geriatrician Jennifer Carnahan, M.D., MPH, M.A., of Regenstrief Institute and IU School of Medicine. “They’ve experienced many health disparities. As these accumulate over a lifetime, we see the potential long-term ill effects of being from a marginalized population.

Nursing home residents rely on facility staff and clinicians for day-to-day functions, such as toileting, bathing and eating, as well as medical care. This need increases the vulnerability of members of the LGBTQ+ community. There is a paramount need, Dr. Carnahan notes, for facilities to provide a welcoming and inclusive culture for all residents.

She and article co-author Andrew C. Pickett, MSEd, PhD, of Indiana University School of Public Health – Bloomington, enumerate best practice recommendations to decrease LGBTQ+ residents’ vulnerability to negative outcomes occurring due to system failures or staffing issues compromising care. These recommendations focus on several areas including:

  • sexual orientation or gender identity status
  • medications
  • social isolation
  • inclusive culture
  • staff training
  • advance care planning/surrogate decision making.

Specific examples, notes Dr. Carnahan, might include facility celebration of Pride Month, relevant books in the resident library and time release for staff training.

Drs. Carnahan and Pickett also provide an extensive list of resources for individuals, families and nursing home facilities.

Postacute care and long-term care for LGBTQ+ older adults,“ an invited article, is published in the peer-reviewed journal Clinics in Geriatric Medicine in a special issue on care for LGBTQ+ older adults.


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