Are American Nursing Homes LGBT Friendly?

Jun 27, 2018

In today’s highly diverse society so focused on equality, we cannot forget to ensure that the aging community has all the resources needed to live a healthy, happy life.  Recently, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News published an article focused on the question – “Are American nursing homes LGBT friendly?” Nursing homes are a place to find care, comfort, and often companionship.  Now more than ever, we must consider whether they are equal havens for everyone, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

With June being hailed LGBT Pride Month, the team at Brown & Brothers feels obliged to help our readers understand the importance of planning for LGBT loved ones who may need the assistance and care offered by a nursing home.  In this article, we will take a look at how many aging Americans are LGBT, and what you can do to help find the right nursing home.

If you have questions about your loved one’s legal rights, or are concerned about abuse, bullying, or mistreatment, contact our office directly to speak with one of our nursing home abuse attorneys.

Aging Americans and the LGBT Community

According to AARP, there are more than one million American’s over age 65 who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  Unfortunately, there are many who are concerned that this aging population will face difficulties finding appropriate care as they age.  In fact, a survey by AARP suggested that 60 percent of LGBT adults are “worried that a long term care facility might refuse or provide them limited care”.  Adults surveyed also expressed concern over abuse or neglect on the part of caregivers.

In addition to concerns related to caregivers specifically, AARP found that 76 percent of LGBT adults surveyed were anxious about having adequate social or familial support in the upcoming years.  LGBT adults tend to live alone and have smaller social circles, which places them at higher risk of isolation from others, including healthcare environments.

Are American Nursing Homes LGBT Friendly?

According to the Human Rights Commission’s 2018 Health Equity Index, of the 1,600 healthcare facilities reviewed, only six skilled nursing facilities made the HRC list of facilities promoting “Equitable and inclusive care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & queer patients and their families”.  A record number of healthcare facilities made the list, but such a small number of skilled nursing facilities is certainly concerning.

There appears to be a lack of nursing homes and skilled facilities offering openly LGBT friendly services, or with specifically LGBT trained staff.  Adults in the LGBT community have reported their own concerns and what could help instill confidence in nursing homes.  Consider the following data gathered from AARP respondents:

  • 88 percent of AARP survey participants reported that they would feel more comfortable in an environment with staff members who are specifically trained to meet the needs of the LGBT community.
  • 86 percent of participants would feel more comfortable in facilities offering advertising to highlight LGBT friendly services.
  • 85 percent of participants would be more comfortable with facilities whose staff included members of the LGBT community.
  • 82 percent of participants would feel more comfortable in facilities that offered LGBT signage or symbols in their advertising.

In order to ensure that nursing homes are LGBT friendly, facilities must be willing to address the concerns of aging Americans.  As the AARP survey suggests, the LGBT community of aging Americans is speaking out about their needs, desires, and hope for a healthy, equal future.

Can American Nursing Homes Improve Their Environments for the LGBT Community?

With aging Americans concerned about abuse, neglect, judgment, or abandonment, nursing homes must be open-minded.  There are ways of improving nursing homes and addressing staffing concerns.  SAGE Cares is a program offering culturally competent training, which includes ways of meeting the needs of the LGBT aging community.  There are also numerous blogs from experts and advocates offering tips for facilities to ensure they are offering an LGBT friendly environment.  One such blog featured on the website of Brookdale Senior Living recommends the following:

  • Presume that your facility does, or will, house LGBT adults.
  • Discuss sexuality in a safe and confidential manner with residents and staff.
  • Create opportunities for LGBT residents to talk about their families and loved ones.

Brookdale Senior Living operates more than 1,000 facilities across 46 states.  It is one of a hand full of organizations opening discussion about LGBT adults in nursing home communities.

An AARP Senior Advisor and an active LGBT Liaison also recommends nursing homes be involved in the LGBT community.  Facilities can have a presence in local LGBT Pride Festivals, events, and by supporting LGBT organizations in their communities.  Facilities can also target adults who are active in local LGBT community organizations or centers.

By being open and promoting an environment of openness and equality, facilities can help prepare for LGBT residents and ensure that their needs and legal rights are protected.  Facilities and staff need to be educated and trained in how to make sure that discrimination does not happen.  LGBT adults entering nursing home communities need to feel confident and comfortable that they can be who they are without judgment or fear of bullying or other inappropriate behaviors.

Getting Help with Nursing Home Questions or Concerns

Nursing home abuse and neglect occur for many reasons, including discrimination.  Such actions on the part of nursing home administrators, staff, or healthcare providers should not be tolerated.  Anyone with questions or concerns about the legal rights of nursing home residents should contact an attorney to address their concerns and get the guidance they need.

At Brown & Brothers, we are dedicated to helping nursing home residents from all walks of life enjoy happy, healthy futures.  If you or someone you love is concerned about nursing home abuse, neglect, or discrimination, fill out our online form to schedule a free case consultation.