Researchers at the University of Manchester and University of Nottingham in Great Britain studied attitudes toward LGBT residents by staff in nursing homes and the results, while positive, are also troubling.
“Whilst attitudes were generally positive, knowledge of LGBT individuals and issues was more variable if not erratic,” the study concluded. “Staff may not be so well supported in terms of training and could be struggling alone to meet needs.”
The number of LGBT residents is poorly monitored and staff goodwill needs to be converted into practice “to make homes more LGBT inclusive.”
Findings include 83 percent of those responding did not consider same-sex relationships to be wrong, and 79 percent agreed that residents should be enabled to express their sexual needs.
All respondents showed some awareness of legal requirements to avoid discrimination. This study was done in the U.K. and no similar requirement exists in the U.S.
Despite laws requiring no discrimination, 78 percent had had no LGBT-specific training.
Researcher Dr. Paul Simpson said, “Most respondents reported: ‘We don’t have any LGBT people at the moment’ but that can’t be true. We’re not critical of care homes, as attitudes appear positive, but we do feel many may simply not be able to recognize people who are LGBT.”
He said the unintentional result is “to force residents back into the closet and deny a lifetime of experience.”
Researcher Kathryn Almack said, “It was common to hear the phrase, ‘I/we treat everyone the same.’ While well intentioned, ironically this reinforces, rather than prevents or tackles inequality. Encouraging an LGBT-friendly atmosphere needs to be higher on the agenda. All residents should have the option and opportunity to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity but never feel forced to disclose information.”
While a majority of nursing home staff believe LGBT residents should be treated equally, just one staff member who doesn’t agree could put that person’s life in danger.
About two thirds of staff believed residents could be sexually active.
Drawing on personal experience, my father was in an Alzheimer’s facility for over a year. About two months before he died, I got a call from the facility director who did a wonderful job of keeping in touch with me. She said she had something to ask. My father had met a woman and was spending nights in her room.
“Is that a problem?” I asked.
“No, but sometimes the families object,” she said.
“Object? He’s 87 years old,” I said. “I hope my genes come from that side of the family.”
So the queasiness over sex — especially among the elderly — may be a general problem, not a problem specifically directed at the LGBT community.
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