Webinar presenters Sherrill Wayland and Bonnie Olsen answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Increased Risks for Elder Abuse among the LGBTQ Community: What Justice Professionals Need to Know. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: How can we raise awareness of these types of issues since LGBT senior issues are sorely lacking as well as addressing their unique needs for mature from geriatricians?
Bonnie Olsen: Perhaps I can help with that one. I know there’s a one-word answer I would like to offer, which is education. I think that many, many physicians, including geriatricians, don’t really think about LGBT issues in their patient population. Hopefully, that is changing over time as we kind of get the word out that we need to be more sensitive, and we need to be asking questions and make creating medical environments where patients feel welcome, understood, and accepted. It’s not an easy go. It’s been a tough environment for LGBT communities to feel comfortable in. Those of us working particularly in geriatrics are putting a lot of effort into making sure that physicians and staff and all the support structure around the medical community is being more inclusive and more understanding and creating those environments where it’s easier for those conversations to be had. Where language, the use of the right language is being encouraged. So, there’s a lot of effort in that endeavor, but it’s still got a long way to go. So, I feel your pain, and I understand it. I don’t have any specific recommendations other than to be as vocal about that as you can with medical providers. Most of them don’t want to do it wrong. They want to be more inclusive, they don’t know that they’re not being. So, I mean, in most instances, I think most medical providers would welcome some feedback, that if that’s something that said in the wrong way or isn’t inclusive enough that it makes sense to point it. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Sherrill Wayland: Many LGBT older adults may also be uncomfortable to come out. How we have conversations with elders can help open the door for them to be more honest about their relationships. Many may still say that they have a roommate or a best friend who’s, you know, providing that care and support for them. It may actually be their lifelong partner, you know. So, just really making sure that we’ve done as much education as we can and that we’re really open to hearing what the elder has to say. You know, so ask them, ”Who’s important to you? How long have you known this person? Can you share more about your relationship? Is this the person that you want to be making decisions on your behalf?” You know, those are all ways that we can be more open and honest in our conversation with LGBT elders.
Audience Question: Does Sage or any other organizations have resources for LGBT elders for non-English speakers or limited English speakers?
Sherrill Wayland: Through the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, we have been able to translate several of our documents into Spanish. There are also a few other languages that we’ve been able to translate. So, we would encourage you to look at our services there. Also, the hotline number that we mentioned is available in English and Spanish. So, we would encourage you to be sure to write that number down. And then, there’s a new program that we started called Sage Connect which is, which was really in response to COVID and it’s a phone support program where we match an LGBT elder with a volunteer. And we’re really trying to help match people based on their language needs and you can learn more about that program at sageUSA.org.
Bonnie Olsen: Then, I would just add that almost all of the fact sheets and support materials that NCEA provides on their website, is also offered in multiple languages. I believe, also, that the ones attached here, most of them also have a Spanish version. And we’re working on translating things into many other languages and in addition to Spanish.
Audience Question: Do you have any particular advice on sharing information in educated assisted living and long-term care facilities to make sure that they’re trained on this topic?
Sherrill Wayland: One of the other programs that I actually am involved with now is a joint project with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, called the Long-Term Care Equality Index. It’s a year old and we’re actually just now launching a self-assessment. And this is a program designed to help long-term care communities, especially independent living , assisted living and skilled nursing to evaluate their policies and procedures and to help ensure that they are LGBT-inclusive. Once this is really off the ground, then there will be a survey that will help inform the community. You know here’s a place where you can go that is LGBT affirming. You can learn more about that program at theLEI.org. And, you know, be sure to share that with communities that you’re working with so that they can look into that and see what they can do to be more LGBT inclusive.
Bonnie Olsen: I would like to add, also that, in this time of COVID, we know that long-term care facilities are particularly at risk for getting infections in their population, and struggling with keeping people safe, and keeping staff safe, and getting enough supplies, and managing all this. While nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities have some regulations, and so forth about all that, many of those others don’t, at least in California, I can say that for sure. But I suspect, as we come out of COVID, there’s going to be a lot closer look at policy issues. And I think that creates an opportunity because we know that the policies that oversee places, like assisted living, independent living, board, and carers, and those sorts of communal living settings, that are not medical, need to have better policies that direct their response to things like infection control. It’s also a great time for us to make sure that they’re addressing the needs of the LGBT population and making sure that they’re taking a stance on welcoming that community into their residences.
Audience Question: Are you aware of any directory of medical providers that are specifically LGBT friendly?
Sherrill Wayland: Yes, there is a program that is ran through the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. I don’t know that I can pull that link up for you, but they do have a listing where medical providers can list themselves as being LGBT welcoming and friendly. And that’s a searchable, national database. Again, that’s through the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. And then, for hospital networks, there’s also the Healthcare Equality Index, which is run by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and they list medical networks that are LGBT welcoming and friendly.
Audience Question: Do you have any recommendations for recruiting elder volunteers? I wonder if having elder representation in our agencies would be an effective tool for raising awareness and reaching more elder victims.
Sherrill Wayland: I think that’s a very good question. And again, I would encourage you to look at your community. And if you have a Sage affiliate, if you have an LGBT community center, those are likely partners where you could recruit LGBT volunteers. And also, when you’re recruiting to make sure that your recruitment materials say that, you know, you welcome volunteers regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. So, let them know that LGBT people are welcome to come and volunteer and that you’re actually recruiting LGBT older adults. Think that’s a very important way to do some of that outreach. Bonnie, did you have additional thoughts are.
Bonnie Olsen: I just wanted to share that beyond the LGBT community in my over the last couple of months through the COVID pandemic we’ve been developing programs, soliciting older adult volunteers to work with students in our health care programs. And we’ve had an outpouring of support from older adults in the community, many of whom are LGBT, so I would say that volunteerism is up, and there’s a lot of folks who are willing to participate. So, I would strongly encourage you to look to the older adult community to be volunteers for you. And Cheryl said If you’re seeking LGBT, specific, or just inclusive, to use that language so that it’s clear and people are not wondering. But volunteerism is definitely a really helpful way to engage people in the community and create for them, for the volunteers, a sense of belonging and contribution in meaningful ways. So, I think it’s a perfect way to help older adults to be engaged in the community meaningfully.
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