LGBTQ+ Caregiving Challenges
JUNE 16, 2022
According to research from the National Resource Center on LGBTQ Aging, LGBTQ+ older adults are twice as likely to age as a single person, when compared to their heterosexual counterparts. When it comes to aging and caregiving, there are special factors to consider for members of the LGBTQ+ community. During Pride month, and every month we celebrate all types of caregivers, including caregivers who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and those caring for an LGBTQ+ loved one.
Sometimes older LGBTQ+ people feel separated or separate themselves, but caregivers need to find ways to ensure they are included and receive equitable care. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a healthcare provider, I been on both sides of the aisle when it comes to healthcare delivery and caregiving for a loved one. Caregiving for members of the LGBTQ+ has its own challenges, as there are many scenarios where a LGBTQ+ caregiver or care recipient may have challenges interacting with the healthcare system. But these challenges can be overcome with acceptance, love and understanding. Here are a few possible groups of LGBTQ+ caregivers:
- LGBTQ+ baby boomers: Given the older age of baby boomers, this group is usually on the care recipient side. This is a group of individuals that has been decimated by the AIDS crisis in the 80s. Therefore, they are alone, their families usually cut all ties and their friends died. These individuals are relentless and usually are very open to receive care. It is important to find healthcare providers that understand their background and systems of support that will help them age in place.
- Same sex couples caring for their kids: in this scenario, a same sex couple who are caregivers for their children can have trouble accessing care for their kids due to the lack of understanding or willingness to provide care because they are in a same sex relationship. Same sex couple caregivers also must fight harder in school settings and interactions with other care systems that are needed (PT, OT, mental health, etc).
- Caregiving for a same sex spouse: Here the issue is often with the denial of rights that same sex couples have for visitation or sharing information. Often same sex couples must draft legal documents to be able to obtain information or receive proper care for their spouse (even though by law there is no difference from a heterosexual couple). Same sex couples are often asked the relationship of the spouse and they are forced to come out every single time.
- Caregivers who identify as LGBTQ+: To illustrate the troubles when caregiving for a family member, I will illustrate my own story. While caregiving or my mother-in-law my husband and I were coordinating and attending a lot of her medical appointments. In many cases we were asked who we were and why the both of us were in the visit. We had to explain that one was the son and the other the son in law. It usually took a bit of explanation to get people to understand. While we never got any trouble, we noticed that the focus of the visits shifted from my mother in law’s problems to who we were and why we were with her. The 3 of us sat one afternoon and decided that moving forward and to improve the delivery of her care we were going to say we were her sons and not mention we were marriage. This strategy worked and moving forward we did not spend any time talking about our relationship and focus on her care. We did not feel great we had to go back in the closet to be able to get the proper care for a family member. Often LGBTQ+ caregivers must go back in the closet or hide who they are so the care recipient is able to receive proper care.
- Caregiving for Trans individuals: Unfortunately, today there is a cultural discourse against trans individuals that is having a direct negative impact on their healthcare. Caregivers must not only fulfill the duties of care but also advocate for the care recipient rights as a trans individuals.
LGBTQ+ older adults and caregivers deserve to be provided with equal support and resources. If you are a caregiver, providing for a loved one that is part of the LGBTQ+ community, or part of the community yourself, and struggling to find adequate resources know that you are not alone and that there are available resources and support networks. Also, remember to talk with your employer’s HR department to inquire about access to caregiving resources and benefits.