June marks the annual celebrations of Pride Month, in which the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning community honor the advocates that have fought for the rights and protections of LGBTQ+ people across the nation.
Despite decades of progress, the LGBTQ+ community faces discrimination and disparities in education, employment, housing, and health care.
In 2021, more than a third of LGBTQ+ Americans experienced discrimination, according to the Center for American Progress.
This month, the Nursing Home Abuse Center is sharing ways we can all support and protect our seniors in the LGBTQ+ community — many of whom fought for the civil rights we all enjoy today.
The Aging LGBTQ+ Population in Nursing Homes
There are an estimated 2.7 million LGBTQ+ adults aged 50 or older in the United States, and the population is expected to continue growing. Several studies have found that LGBTQ+ seniors are more likely to face financial hardship, estrangement from family, housing insecurity, and poor health care.
At the core of each of these disparities is discrimination — from employers not wanting to hire someone because of their identity to health care staff providing insufficient or negligent service because they refuse to care for an LGBTQ+ patient.
Additionally, LGBTQ+ seniors rely more on nursing homes and long-term care facilities because they are less likely to have adult children or other family who can provide caregiving.
Without strong financial security, LGBTQ+ seniors may have limited options when choosing nursing homes, and many fear what their treatment and care will look like.
LGBTQ+ Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Statistics
The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 6 seniors in long-term care facilities experience abuse. Sadly, nursing home abuse and neglect can be more common for LGBTQ+ residents and more difficult to identify and report.
A study from the LGBTQ+ advocacy group SAGE USA found that 67% of LGBTQ+ seniors feared nursing home neglect, and 62% feared nursing home abuse. More than half were concerned about having to hide or deny their identity.
The likelihood of abuse and neglect is even higher for seniors of color, who make up about 20% of the LGBTQ+ population.
“Johnny had to go to the ER twice in the four days he stayed at a nursing facility. . . . I don’t know whether the poor care he received was because he is Black, or because we are a gay couple. I was at his side all day every day, only leaving to sleep. The bad things happened at night when I couldn’t see what was going on.”
— Jean-Luc, Partner of a Michigan Nursing Home Resident
Nursing home staff and fellow residents who hold discriminatory prejudices against LGBTQ+ residents can create a culture of emotional abuse and neglect. Whether refusing visits from partners or deliberately not using preferred pronouns and names, these actions can severely isolate an LGBTQ+ resident and allow abuse to escalate.
Some serious complications of nursing home abuse and neglect include:
- Bedsores from staff refusing to move patients who do not have the strength to care for themselves
- Dehydration and malnutrition from staff not giving residents enough food and water
- Infections and even wrongful death from staff not providing prompt medical care
Protections for LGBTQ+ Nursing Home Residents
Some states have special protections for LGBTQ+ nursing home residents. For example, California passed the Seniors Long-Term Care Bill of Rights with provisions to protect LGBTQ+ elders from discrimination when being admitted, transferred, or provided care in long-term care facilities.
Illinois, which is home to more than 121,400 LGBTQ+ adults over 50, is also seeking ways to incorporate protections in state-wide policies by expanding research and advocacy.
“LGBTQ+ older adults are often invisible in aging service demographics, resulting in ineffective services and inefficient planning for future programmatic expansions.”
— Paula A. Basta, Director of Illinois Department on Aging
Regardless of where you are located, you can take steps every day to protect LGBTQ+ residents in nursing homes.
You can help protect LGBTQ+ nursing home residents by:
- Advocating for antidiscrimination training for staff, residents, and volunteers in a facility
- Planning routine visits with LGBTQ+ nursing home residents
- Reporting inappropriate comments or behavior from staff to authorities
- Researching homes that are safe for LGBTQ+ residents before moving your loved one in
- Understanding the warning signs of abuse, such as bruises, feelings of loneliness and depression, and weight changes
Finding Help for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
It is up to all of us to protect those in nursing homes, especially those at greater risk, including women, veterans, people of color, and LGBTQ+ residents.
If someone you love has experienced nursing home abuse or neglect, you don’t have to navigate the situation alone. Our advocates at the Nursing Home Abuse Center can help connect you to legal help and other support resources.
Together we can hold those responsible accountable and help keep residents safe from future abuse. Call us today at (855) 264-6310 to see how we can help.