In a video broadcast on ACC TV and available on-demand on their website, Aged Care Channel discuss the long history of discrimination the LGBTI community has faced, and the importance of acknowledging and supporting an individual’s unique experiences.
The free 24-minute video corresponds with a National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy produced by the Australian government, including six strategic learning goals and an appendices of terms.
Around 11 percent of the Australian population identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex, with figures likely to be similar among the older demographic.
However, “there are no statistics kept on the number of LGBTI people who may be receiving aged care at the moment, because it’s just not a question that’s asked, because it seems intrusive,” says Roy Starkey, ACON Northern River client services officer.
Using forms that ask a resident what pronouns and name they would like to be called is one of the measures used in the video.
“If we’re not asking the right questions initially, we won’t give them the confidence that we’ll be able to care for them,” says Melanie Dicks, LGBTI committee chair of Uniting, in the video.
Due to their experience of discrimination and injustice over their lifetime, older LGBTI Australians may have unique health issues, including higher rates of depression and anxiety.
Roy Starkey notes in the video that “most people who go into residential aged care don’t go there by choice,” and the experience can be made harder by the fear of discrimination.
One study by Dr Peter Robinson, published in the Journal Quality in Ageing and Older Adults earlier this year, found that older gay men expected to experience homophobia on aged care facilities.
“There is this fear that you’re going to be looked on as something odd or different, that you’re going to be gossiped about by staff,” says Rob Starkey.
Dr. Robinson suggested that staff training is the best way to address the issue.
“Staff needed to understand how to make people feel safe,” says Melanie Dicks.