LGBT Seniors Find Challenges in Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Facilities

Marlene, 81, and Charlotte, 77, have been together for 43 years.  If one or both of them needs long-term care in the future, their first choice would be getting private in-home care by Marlene’s sister, Vera, but they realize that a skilled nursing facility or assisted living center is always a possibility. Marlene and Charlotte are aware that many LGBT people who came out of the closet go right back in when they need elder care, and like many LGBT couples, they are concerned about their future.

The number of LGBT Americans 65 or older is estimated to be around 1.5 million and is projected to reach at least 3 million by 2030. Baby boomers are bringing huge numbers of people, gay and straight, into retirement in a way our country really hasn’t seen before. The question now is, when seniors who identify themselves as LGBT need long-term care, will they be treated with the same dignity and respect as their straight counterparts?

To help answer this question, six LGBT and senior advocacy groups, in conjunction with the National Senior Citizen’s Law Center, conducted a nationwide study to determine what long-term care was like for LGBT seniors. The study, “LGBT Older Adults in Long-term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field,” suggested that more public education was needed.

Of the 769 people who completed the online survey, 284 identified themselves as LGBT older adults and 485 as friends, family members, social or legal service providers or simply “other.”

Many of the comments in the report ranged from staff harassment to refusal of care.  One responder commented that “It’s a major challenge. You go into a nursing home or facility, it’s not supposed to mean your civil rights are taken away.”

To educate professional caregivers, staff, and residents about LGBT seniors in assisted-living and nursing homes, a recent film called “Gen Silent” was developed and is being shown in facilities around the country. The film follows the lives of six LGBT seniors who need care but are afraid to ask for help or have few friends or family members to care for them. According to Stu Maddux, the film’s director, “[a]s we watch the challenges that these men and women face, we are offered new hope as each person crosses paths with impassioned people trying to change LGBT aging for the better.”

Whether you are gay or straight, if you haven’t done so, now is the time to get started with planning for your future and for your loved ones! Read our recent blog post about why it is especially important for the LGBT community to plan ahead. We here at The Fairfax and Fredericksburg LGBT Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. have strategies in place to help LGBT couples. With advance planning, each person, regardless of sexual orientation, can retain the benefit of the money, income and assets it has taken a lifetime to accumulate. Learn more at , or call us at our Virginia Elder Law Fairfax office at 703-691-1888 or at our Virginia Elder Law Fredericksburg office at 540-479-1435 to make an appointment for a consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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