Wednesday 19 June 2013

Creating LGBTI friendly Aged Care services

Sujay Kentlyn, Conference Co-Chair and Project Officer at
Outrageous Living discusses capacity building. 
The LGBTI Aged Care Forum held last Thursday and Friday in Sydney, was a diverse gathering of LGBTI organisations and leaders - including the ex-Uniting Church Minister Dorothy McRae-McMahon, aged care service providers and researchers.

The strategy
Susan Ditter, chair of the National LGBTI Health Alliance, highlighted the pivotal nature of the new national LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy, the federal government’s framework for guiding the development of inclusive ageing and aged care services.

The Government intends that the strategy 'will help inform the way Government responds to the needs of older LGBTI people and better support the aged care sector to deliver care that is sensitive and appropriate.' Crucially, the strategy recognises the need for sensitivity training for care workers that covers intersecting aspects of identity, including HIV status.


Paul Martin, outgoing Executive Director of Healthy Communities and now National LGBTI Officer at Care Connect, described how Care Connect has sought to engage as equals with LGBTI organisations – rather than just getting them to provide answers to questions asked by Care Connect. Aged care services must understand key LGBTI community concerns and support LGBTI people and organisations in times of celebration, and most particularly, in times of protest, such as in relation to anti-discrimination protections or equal marriage laws, in order to provide genuinely LGBTI-inclusive services.

Another service cited for its proactive approach in developing LGBTI inclusive practices is Uniting Care NSW/ACT. Initiatives they have introduced include recruiting a special LGBTI project officer, partnering with key organisations, including ACON, regularly featuring an LGBTI-themed story in their weekly newsletter, and, most impressively, recruiting 250 LGBTI champions to be spread across the organisation.

Sensitisation training

A key message throughout the conference was the need for aged care service providers to understand core aspects of the experience of LGBTI elders as part of sensitisation training. This includes awareness of how many LGBTI elders have concealed their identity throughout much of their lives due the criminalised and hostile environments in which many have lived. As a result, many older LGBTI people are not visibly or obviously ‘out’; however, this should not be mistaken for thinking/assuming that LGBTI elders do not exist.


Norman Radican, LGBTI Project Officer at Alzheimers Australia South Australia, identified the particular challenges involved for LGBTI elders who have dementia. 25% ofpeople with HIV are likely to develop HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) according to Professor Bruce J Brew, while across the broader population there are estimated to be 320,000 people experiencing some form of dementia.

The memories of most people who develop dementia usually revert to when they were 20-30 years of age, Mr. Radican told the conference. For LGBTI people, their family and friends, this can be particularly difficult as many LGBTI elders today may have passed as straight in their 20 and 30’s, only coming out later in life. This can be challenging for family and friends, and requires great understanding and sensitivity from service providers.

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