A growing patchwork of legal protections, ranging from estate planning laws to civil unions to full marriage equality (most recently in my state of Maryland!), has greatly strengthened the security of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender older adults in recent decades. But many LGBT elders who find themselves in need of long-term care face a number of disadvantages unique to the LGBT community.
LGBT elders face much higher levels of financial insecurity compounded by ineligibility for spousal benefits. Many rely on legally fragile non-traditional family support systems that can result in life-long partners being barred from hospital visits or from making end-of-life decisions. And unfortunately LGBT elders face continued anti-gay bias and even discrimination from service providers and even peers in nursing homes and other LTC settings.
It is critical that the culture change movement in LTC fight to promote the dignity and equity of all people, regardless of age, gender race and sexual orientation. A recent documentary by Stu Maddox focused on the experience of LGBT elders highlights the need for more education and awareness on these issues.
The film “Gen Silent” asks six LGBT elders if they will hide their friends, their spouses and their entire lives in order to avoid facing discrimination and bullying in the long term care system. It documents how members of the generation who fought for the right to come out of the closet are being forced back into the closet out of fear and desperation.
Find a list of screening dates at www.StuMaddux.com.
In my opinion the best way to ensure the equity and dignity of LGBT elders is to strengthen the relationships they depend on late in life by ending marriage discrimination nationwide and allowing same-sex couples to enjoy the same benefits and protections from marriage as heterosexual couples.