PROUD - Platforma pro rovnoprávnost, uznání a diverzitu

PROUD - Platforma pro rovnoprávnost, uznání a diverzitu

platforma pro
rovnoprávnost,
uznání a diverzitu

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LGBTseniors

Are you wondering who is an LGBT senior? You are not the only one. If your question is mainly about what is an LGBT person, the answer is that LGBT is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-sexual people. Or were you surprised by those two words put together? Yes, seniors can also be found within the LGBT community. It is true that in that sub-culture there’s almost no-one who knows or even suspects that they too exist. We could even call them, brazenly, “the invisible”. 

What opened up the discussion about the position of LGBT seniors in the Czech society was the project “Invisible (LGBT) minorities”, financed by the EHP/Norwegian Funds. In its frame, a survey was conducted about “The situation of LGBT seniors in facilities dealing with the elderly”. The goal of this survey was to answer the question if those offering services for seniors are ready to deal with LGBT seniors. The respondents were experts on senior care, managers of facilities offering such care, direct care providers and LGBT seniors themselves. 

The survey confirmed that LGBT seniors are indeed an invisible minority. Not only are they ignored by the larger society, but they are unknown even to the LGBT community. The mere topic of LGBT seniors is off-hands, tabooed across the society, among experts and ordinary people. One of the reasons is that LGBT seniors themselves (unlike younger LGBT people) tend to avoid becoming visible. “That is something our generation does not talk about”. 

In spite of its invisibility, though, this is a quite large and significant group of seniors, with specific needs. The question is how to support them when we’re not even sure they exist, and we are not aware that they have specific needs. Indeed, it is not only the seniors that are invisible, but also their problems and needs. Providers of senior care see in this a business deficit, not a human problem. “We are talking about common care, there is no need for a special approach in terms of health of social care. A senior LGBT immobile patient needs the same facilities like any other patient, the same accessibility adjustments (wheelchair, standing hoists, lifters etc.) like any other immobile senior”. 

Medical care people tend to see the illness, not a special patient. “Is he ill? And he is LGBT? So what? We provide health care based on medical condition, not on sexual orientation. We are a hospital, not a sex club. We are interested in his illness, not his sexual orientation…”

Social workers also tend to see social problems, rather than a client in his/her entire complexity and his/her need of a special approach. “You know, by that age it’s totally irrelevant if that senior is LGBT or otherwise… They are glad to be alive, the rest is not important. When you’re suffering of dementia, it really makes no difference…”

The situation of LGBT seniors in the Czech Republic hasn’t been even explored yet, so it is far from being transparent and clear. Many managers of health and social facilities providing seniors care are totally unaware that they might even have LGBT clients, and haven’t even considered this group in the larger frame of the senior population. There’s a similar approach among the direct providers of senior care. Some of them say that being LGBT is a matter of the young, not a senior’s issue, and don’t remember having encountered such people. “Honestly, I haven’t thought that seniors can be LGBT… I thought this was only about the young ones… but then it is true that when the young grow old…”

Many LGBT seniors themselves are reluctant to come out and tend to believe that in a senior care facility sexual orientation is a private matter which doesn’t need to be ventured out in the open. “S. is now in a senior home and she definitely will not tell everyone there, now when she’s 80, that she doesn’t have a husband, that she’s a lesbian, especially after keeping it a secret her whole life…” But the communication between the different actors in such a situation can be complicated or distorted as a result of this lack of awareness. 

What is the way out? The current senior care system needs to change. This, however, requires a complex approach. There are several challenges for the future that stood out in our survey. The fundamental challenge is to open up the discussion about LGBT seniors to experts and the general public alike. Only after that one can talk about the next steps, such as setting up training opportunities for direct care providers, experts, educators, and managers of social and health care facilities. 

LGBT people expect a professional approach from the staff of such facilities. The direct care providers declare themselves ready to offer LGBT people professional care. Various experts and managers insist that for direct care providers it should be no problem to work with LGBT seniors. Nevertheless, all the participants in the survey said they would welcome some sort of education help (training, seminars, manuals, methods). This education should carry a fundamental message: all senior care should be based on the respect for the human being, regardless of the client’s sexual orientation. “It doesn’t matter if they’re gay or not, they’re human”.

The expectations regarding different types of care for LGBT seniors do not differ from the expectations of the majority. Residential care (seniors’ homes) is indeed one of the possibilities taken into consideration by LGBT seniors, but only for a crisis scenario. Both groups of seniors (LGBT and straight) overwhelmingly prefer to be cared for at home. They want to spend the rest of their lives at home. 

But in order for seniors to enjoy for as long as possible their home environment, it is absolutely necessary to set up a tight and efficient network for in-the-field (health and social) services. This trend should be followed also by the official policies of the Czech state – senior care with the longest possible duration at home. 

You can find out more about our survey in the attachment. 

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Supported by grants from Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway in the frame of EHP Funds. www.fondnno.cz a www.eeagrants.cz

 

 

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