Maybe it’s because I live in the New York metropolitan area, but it seems every nursing home I’ve worked in is filled with residents and staff from all over the world. I find it an exciting environment with the opportunity to learn about different cultures at every turn. Somehow, despite our differences, we make it work and provide top-notch care for our residents. Unless they’re gay. Or lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT). Then many LGBT residents, no matter what country they hail from, feel they need to go back into the closet and hide who they are from those caring for them. They fear the prejudice of staff members and rightly so, based on a number of conversations I’ve had with co-workers about the issue. According to The Aging and Health Report released by The National LGBT Health and Aging Center, 21% of LGBT seniors do not disclose their sexual or gender identity to their physician. Their physician.
If you’re looking for resources to address LGBT issues in LTC, consider showing your staff the award-winning hour-long documentary Gen Silent or using one of their training programs. I had the opportunity to view the film at the American Psychological Association conference last month and think it would make an excellent tool for addressing sexual diversity. Given the strong feelings many staff members have on homosexuality, a training program is likely to be more helpful than an open discussion of the issues. As a psychologist privy to the private concerns of residents, I can tell you that you do have LGBT residents within your facilities — you just might not know who they are.