The number of LGBT older adults is more than two million and growing. Many will require long-term care. A recent study published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing found that each segment of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) population has its own specific physical and mental health needs.
“Nurses are in a prominent position to create healthcare environments that will meet the needs of this misunderstood group of people,” says Rita Jablonski, PhD, associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing and lead author of the paper, “The Invisible Elderly: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults.”
While LGBT individuals are grouped under one umbrella, the authors found that the issues for each distinct group ranged from housing to long-term care placement to the selection of health practices. The authors offer nurses the following recommendations to assist in improving the healthcare experience for LGBT older adults:
- Realize that you already have LGBT residents.
- Change the way resident information is gathered.
- Ask questions about sexual orientation and gender identity separately.
- Amend questions such as marital status, if necessary.
- If an older adult identifies as transgender, ask how the client wishes to be addressed.
- Ask what, if any, surgeries have been completed, as the answer might directly affect care.
Because of the discrimination and violence some LGBT adults have faced in their lifetimes, many are suspicious of healthcare providers. “By adopting inclusive language and practices, nurses are in the best position to provide thoughtful and culturally appropriate care to these older adults,” notes Jablonski in a UAB News article.