04 Jan 2021

Training is Vital for LGBT Culturally Competent Senior Care

As we age, many of us have concerns spanning health, finances, housing, and isolation. We hope that we have planned well and saved for retirement and remain healthy and active in our communities. Still, we know there may be a need for services to support our health and well-being as we grow older. We expect services that will help us remain as independent as possible and maintain a high quality of life. Many of us plan to rely on biological families while others will rely on families of choice. Aside from aging concerns that we all may share; the LGBT aging population have further worries when it comes to their care.

A 2018 survey conducted by AARP found that 88% of LGBT adults would feel more comfortable accessing senior services if they knew that providers and staff were specifically trained for LGBT patient needs. In the same survey, 73% of respondents reported a lack of access to LGBT specific senior services and 52% reported fears about discrimination or prejudice affecting quality of care. One in three respondents expressed concerns with having to hide their identity to have equal access to housing options as they age.

This sentiment rings true for many of the LGBT older adults in which we serve. One man, who previously traveled to Philadelphia to attend a senior center where he felt safe, questioned if he would be accepted by his peers and staff at a suburban center closer to his home if he was open with them about his sexuality. Another senior residing at a nursing facility reported concerns that the staff may not want to care for her because she is LGBT. In addition to expected aging issues one may experience, our LGBT seniors have added concerns that require attention from adequately trained and culturally sensitive staff.

In a recent book chapter titled “The Prevalence of Elder Bullying and Impact on LGBT Elders” it is reported that 20% of older adults living in senior housing encounter peer bullying. Bullying can be defined as intentional repetitive aggressive behavior that involves an imbalance of power and often includes gossip, insults, and exclusion. As providers of senior care, it is imperative to understand both bullying prevention strategies and effective interventions. We owe it to our seniors accessing services to be well trained and prepared to intervene so that each person can feel welcomed and valued. We worry our LGBT population is more likely to fall victim to bullying and therefore require training on both LGBT cultural competency as well as bullying.

Through the SAGECare national training and credentialing program, the Delaware County Office of Services for the Aging staff have earned the Bronze SAGECare Credential which signals that we are a safe place for LGBT seniors to access services and receive culturally competent care. Our sponsored senior centers have received training on bullying and several have received their SAGECare credential this year. We are conducting outreach to the LGBT community to recruit Domiciliary Care Providers to offer LGBT friendly housing options and are hopeful to obtain data on sexual orientation from the population we serve to quantify how we are doing in our efforts; as all constituents deserve to feel safe, respected and as equal partners in their care.


Kylie Rosenberg is the Training Specialist for the Delaware County Office of Services for the Aging (COSA).





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