Nursing homes have always had lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender residents, but they have not always felt comfortable identifying as such, for fear of how staff or other residents might react. It is important for nursing facilities to be open and welcoming to LGBT residents, and to this end the Alzheimer’s Association has published a guide for long-term care facilities welcoming LGBT residents. The guide is also useful for LGBT elders and their families considering a nursing facility, to determine how welcoming it will be.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a facility should first of all assume that there are LGBT residents, and not assume that staff can identify them. LGBT residents cannot necessarily be identified by external characteristics and they may have past life experiences such as being in a heterosexual marriage or having children that do not fit common assumptions about LGBT people.
The association also recommends that nursing home staff ask residents about their sexual orientation in a safe and confidential way, in the same way that any other factual though potentially sensitive question would be asked. However, if the resident appears uncomfortable, the matter should not be pushed, and staff should remember that sexual orientation is just one aspect of a person’s identity.
The association recommends – and LGBT elders should look for – signs of welcoming in a long-term care facility. A facility can show that LGBT elders are welcome by prominently posting its non-discrimination policy, including same-sex couples in marketing materials, and including LGBT-inclusive images or messages in the lobby and other public areas. Forms should include relationship options such as “significant other” and “partner.” Staff should be trained on how to recognize and address the needs of LGBT residents.
When nursing facilities take these steps, it will be apparent to LGBT elders and their families that the facility is welcoming to them.
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