Elderly LGBT people with Dementia Marginalised

According to Des Kelly, the Director of the National Care Forum, there are over 1.2 million lesbian and gay elderly folk in the UK, although these people feel unable or unwilling to express their sexuality. They are rarely acknowledged by service providers and commissioners, and this facilitates the marginalisation of them.

Many people can assume that people of a generational divide that elderly people are not likely to be LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender) although this is simply not the case.

Mr Kelly Wote in the Guardian that ‘It cannot be right that people from the generation that fought hard for equality are forced back into the closet when they receive social care,’ while the Social Care Institute for Excellence states that “commissioners and providers don’t often think about LGBT people when planning and delivering services, but this does not mean that LGBT people are not using services or do not want to use services.”

Given that those with dementia are expected to make up over one million members of the population by 2025, it could be argued that because there is no specific reference to LGBT issues in the National Dementia Strategy.  It might also be said that not enough is being done to support these vulnerable older people who are more likely to require care due to family estrangement.

According to Mr Kelly, ‘we know where some of the biggest challenges lie. For example, prejudice – current or historic – can affect how someone perceives and experiences support. While some lose their inhibitions due to dementia, others who have previously come out feel unable to be open about their sexuality or transgender status.

‘Dementia causes anguish and confusion; this experience could be exacerbated as older people with the condition struggle to deal with negative perceptions of their sexuality or gender in residential care.’

The lack of research in the area is also of particular concern. As the 2010 Equality and Human Rights Commission report Don’t Look Back states: “Older LGB people have been overlooked in health and social care legislation, policy, research, guidance and practice, which assume service users are heterosexual.”

Some campaigners have called for LGBT specific residential care as an answer to this problem. However, due to underfunding in the sector plus the fears of elderly people that they might be stigmatised, it seems more likely that LGBT sympathies will become integrated into mainstream care practices.

Written By:

Daniel James


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