Local authority commissioners, GPs and healthcare professionals from around the South East gathered at Ash Court Care Centre in Camden last week for a special event examining the growing healthcare needs of an ageing LGBT population.
Author and advocate Rebecca DeHavalland and Clive Blowes, HIV and Ageing Lead for the Terrence Higgins Trust, presented to the audience of care home staff, managers and commissioners on the specific needs faced by members of the LGBT community as they get older, and what can be done to provide dignified and respectful care.
“Members of this community often face different healthcare issues to the wider community, from those living with HIV to how ageing affects a transgender person, and it is important that those providing care have a practical understanding of how this may differ from a conventional care scenario,” comments the event organiser, manager Steven Anderson.
However, it is not simply health, but social issues that need to be explored in order to provide the best possible care to an ageing LGBT community. Isolation is far more prevalent in the ageing LGBT community; fewer people with children of their own, and estrangement from family can contribute to increased incidence of depression, alcohol and drug use.
“Whilst the UK – and, as we heard from Rebecca, Ireland – has moved towards a more accepting and understanding culture, we need to recognise that care is often provided by people coming from different countries where LGBT issues are not as openly discussed,” adds Steven. “The session proved hugely enlightening and inspirational for many of our staff, and this is crucial if we are to treat everyone who passes through our doors with the dignity they deserve.”
From asking those being cared for about their gender identity from the earliest point in their care journey, to ensuring that same-sex partners are treated with the same compassion as any wife or husband, the positive impact of understanding the particular needs of LGBT people cannot be understated, attendees heard.
Clive Blowes was delighted to have been asked along to speak to front-line care providers: “Older LGBT people and those living with HIV fear having to hide an important part of their identity when accessing the care they need. Many have experienced discrimination or abuse in the past when trying to access the healthcare system and these negative interactions shape the way they engage with services in later life. Care providers can really make a difference by understanding the unique, individual needs of older LGBT people and providing quality person-centred care in an environment of acceptance.”