LGBT Nursing Homes and Abuse: An Overview
According to a recently released report titled, “LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field,” nearly 43 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT) nursing home residents reported being abused or discriminated against while staying at a long-term care facility. Of the 769 individuals who were surveyed, 328 of them reported a total of 853 instances of abuse. In some instances, LGBT residents said that they were harassed by other residents or staff members. In other cases, residents reported that staff members refused to accept a medical power of attorney signed by a resident’s same-sex partner or spouse. Moreover, LGBT residents were refused medical care or were wrongfully transferred or discharged from a nursing home facility. Transgendered residents reported feeling particularly isolated and discriminated against when staff members refused to recognize their gender identities. Ninety percent of the survey’s respondents stated they would be discriminated against by staff if they came “out” in a facility. In addition, 80 percent of those surveyed said that coming out would result in bullying or mistreatment by other residents.
Nursing Home Rights of LGBT Residents
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law states that nursing homes must “protect and promote the rights of each resident.” These rights extend to elderly members of the LGBT community and are further protected by additional federal and state laws and regulations. For example, nursing home residents have the right to be free from abuse, which includes harassment. Staff members cannot deny medical care to an LGBT resident. In addition, nursing home residents have the right to visitors, including same-sex partners and spouses. Moreover, because nursing home residents have a right to participate in their care, same-sex spouses or partners can sign a medical power of attorney to make health decisions should his or her partner become incapacitated. Residents also have the right to be treated with respect and dignity; they have a right to dress according to their indivudal gender identify, and they have the right to be referred to by the pronoun associated with his or her identify. Residents also have the right to room with a same-sex partner. Finally, residents cannot be asked to leave a facility due to LGBT affiliations.
Steps Prospective LGBT Elders Can Take When Choosing a Facility
There are several steps LGBT members can take to ensure their fair and safe treatment in nursing homes. First, they can advocate for laws mandating that all staff members be trained on LGBT issues in nursing homes. Second, they can advocate for funding for researching effective LGBT programs in nursing homes. In addition, when seeking out a nursing home, prospective patients and their families should ask several questions. Does the nursing home have a written nondiscriminatory policy pertaining to LGBT residents? Are staff members trained on LGBT issues? Are there any “out” staff members or residents? Do intake forms have a place to indicate same-sex partners or spouses? By asking these questions, LGBT members can assess a nursing home’s ability to meet their needs.
More helpful information for LGBT seniors and their families can be found here at the LGBT Aging Center.