Dementia Care Issues for the Lesbian and Gay Community

Elderly same-sex female couple sharing time
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Lesbian and gay people are largely overlooked when it comes to thinking about Alzheimer's disease. Media attention seems to focus mainly on younger people to the extent that gay and lesbian issues seem to be something for the under 40s. Nothing could be further from the truth of course, but the older generation brought up in an era of little if any tolerance is more likely to be hidden from view.

Why Dementia Care Issues Are Different for Lesbians and Gays

  • When dementia is diagnosed more people become involved in the process of care. What was a previously private domestic arrangement comes into the domain of care and medical ​services. Issues of confidentiality, prejudice, ignorance, as well embarrassment can influence proper care provision.
  • The older generation is more likely to have spent a lifetime passing as heterosexual so it can be emotionally upsetting for the person, their partner, and relatives, to disclose previously secret information.
  • Residential care settings can vary in their understanding and preparedness for dealing with the needs of lesbians and gays people with Alzheimer's disease.
  • The legal position of same sex partners can vary from country to country. In the UK recent reforms now provide the same rights to gay and lesbian couples as heterosexual couples, this is not the case in most places.
  • Issues of sexuality in the elderly still seem to be concerned more with inappropriate sexual behavior. Sexual expression can be viewed as symptomatic rather than natural. This is often an issue for straight as well as gay people.
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) caregivers can face their own problems with stigma and prejudice.

The current generation of lesbian and gay people are largely hidden from view within care arrangements. For many, this has been a feature of their life and it extends into their twilight years. As a more vocal and open generation follows behind, caregiving services need to consider how they will react to these needs.

Information About Gay and Lesbian Services for Dementia

The Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network (LGAIN) works to raise awareness about the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders and about the unique barriers they encounter in gaining access to housing, healthcare, long-term care and other needed services.

For a detailed look at lesbian gay bisexual transgender issues of aging read
Aging in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Communities, a report by the City and County of San Francisco Human Rights Commission and Ageing and Adult Services Commission 2003.

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