Owner of Just Better Care Brisbane North and CBD, Susanne Jones, has strived to make her aged care customers feel safe and supported, and is working with other service providers to take action for LGBTI seniors.
The organisation has a diverse client base and Ms Jones wants all of her customers to feel supported and comfortable with her team.
The Just Better Care team are educating themselves about issues affecting the LGBTI community, which will help improve aged care services for LGBTI seniors.
“It’s about inclusion and aligning our organisation through consistent, respectful treatment,” says Ms Jones.
The Diversity in Action Ageing group includes LGBTI people aged 65 and over, as well as representatives from aged care service providers in the Brisbane area.
Meeting twice a month, the group raises awareness and identifies ways to create better aged care services for LGBTI seniors.
Ms Jones says it has been invaluable working directly with older people who identify as LGBTI, since it is not always easy for them to speak about their experiences.
“There are people who are over 70 and still haven’t come out because of shame and discrimination,” she explains.
By fostering an open and non-judgemental space, the group has generated critical insights into improving aged care services for LGBTI seniors.
Nicky Bath, Executive Director of the National LGBTI Health Alliance, a national peak health LGBTI organisation, says stigma around LGBTI seniors is an ongoing struggle for many people.
Ms Bath says, “Many older LGBTI Australians have faced a lifetime of discrimination and abuse, and they fear this will continue [when] accessing aged care.”
Language has emerged as a critical factor. Some questions, such as “why are you not married?”, are commonly asked of new customers but can be unintentionally isolating.
Since joining the action group, Just Better Care has added LGBTI scenario questions to the interview process when hiring new staff.
Ms Jones says, “I want our staff to understand that language can impact how comfortable someone feels, especially if we are in their home.”
“This way, it’s made very clear that we provide support to diverse groups and that we are committed to providing a safe and comfortable service to every individual.
“Listening to LGBTI seniors share their own experiences has taught me that it’s about having an attitude that never assumes. You just can’t know what any one person has been through, or what best serves them.
“Now my attitude is, I can’t know what you need, but if you need to talk, I will listen to you and do everything I can to help.”
Just Better Care provides support for older Australians and people with disability. To find out more, visit their website.