Day 12: Caregiving in the LGBT Community

November 12, 2011

By Scott French, SAGECAP Program Manager (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders) CAP (Caring and Preparing)

Caregiving takes many forms. While we might think of caregivers as paid aides, in reality, the majority of caregiving in the U.S. is provided by informal caregivers, usually a spouse or child. In the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, it is important to realize that many LGBT older adults do not have the same familial supports.

For example, when compared to their heterosexual counterparts, LGBT older adults are:

•Twice as likely to age as a single person
•Twice as likely to live alone
•Three to four times less likely to have children to support them

While LGBT older adults may not have the same biological family supports as their heterosexual counterparts, many have developed important social networks of partners, friends, ex-partners, neighbors and others. These networks are often referred to as “families of choice.”

What’s Different about LGBT Caregiving?

There are more similarities between LGBT and non-LGBT caregivers than differences—all caregivers provide critically needed support and assistance to older adults to help them age in their communities. However, LGBT caregivers may have limited access to LGBT-affirming services in their communities, and their families of choice may not always be recognized under the law. This is why it is important for LGBT caregivers to be aware of the local services in their areas, as well as the laws and regulations in their cities and/or states to ensure that they and their loved ones are protected—but keeping track of this information while also supported a loved one can take its toll.

Since 2004, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) has offered caregiver support services and programs to New York City’s LGBT community through our Partners in Caring Program, supported by New York City’s Department for the Aging. The Partners in Caring Program has served over 3,000 caregivers since its inception through the provision of culturally competent counseling, case management, educational and information services.

In 2009, SAGE launched SAGECAP (Caring and Preparing) to further provide LGBT caregivers with peer-to-peer support groups, educational seminars and planning services to ensure LGBT caregivers today are prepared for their own aging future. Together with Partners in Caring, SAGECAP ensures that LGBT caregivers and care recipients receive the LGBT-affirming support and resources they need.

Unfortunately, LGBT caregiver support services are not widespread across the country. In recognition of this fact, SAGE and the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging created an online LGBT Caregiver Resource Center to provide caregivers and service providers access to tools and information that address their unique needs (www.lgbtagingcenter.org/resources). On the site caregivers can learn about the legal documents every LGBT older adult should have, and review tips on finding LGBT-affirming services. The website also offers access to the latest research and policy reports on caregiving and a host of other issues that matter to LGBT elders.

Visit the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging today to access all of our articles, publications and other information designed to support LGBT caregivers. If you’re interested in learning more about the issues that LGBT caregivers face, watch the video LGBT Older Adults and Caregiving: Unique Needs.

Resources:

1) SAGE Website: www.sageusa.org

2) National Resource Center on LGBT Aging: www.lgbtagingcenter.org

3) FCA Fact Sheet: Legal Issues for LGBT Caregivers

4) FCA Fact Sheet: Special Concerns of LGBT Caregivers

Please Give Credit
Creative Commons License
Day 12: Caregiving in the LGBT Community by By Scott French, MPA, MFA, SAGECAP Program Manager is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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