Caring for Our LGBTQ+ Seniors

Over their thirty-seven years together Jim and Dale became known as a San Francisco couple you could count on: to take part in campaigns for LGBTQ+ rights, to help friends living with—or dying of—HIV, and to support their city’s many cultural and athletic institutions. “I taught Dale to love football,” says Jim, 77, an ex-jock and Air Force vet, “and he taught me to love the ballet.”

senior couple

But as Jim and Dale, 69, have gotten older, they have had to face their share of infirmities. Jim has congestive heart failure, osteoporosis, and many other physical ailments. Over the past dozen years, he has had at least as many surgeries, including a quadruple bypass. Following a serious operation Jim needed last year, the couple knew that they needed extra help at home.

“The situation was overwhelming,” says Dale, who suffers from a bad back and was recently hospitalized himself. “Jim couldn’t walk, and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone at home if I needed to go out.”

Aging can create health challenges for all older adults and their families, but for seniors who identify as LGBTQ+, other inequalities and barriers can add extra stress to the experience.

According to senior advocacy organization SAGE, seniors who define themselves as LGBTQ+ are only half as likely as heterosexual seniors to have close relatives to call for help, and three times more likely to be childfree. In the US, where 80% of long-term senior care is typically provided by relatives, this can mean that LGBTQ+ seniors may need to lean on healthcare and senior care professionals for both practical and emotional support.

But the needs of LGBTQ+ seniors, who are sometimes apprehensive of how they’ll be treated by healthcare and senior care providers, can be different from those of non-LGBTQ+ seniors – so finding the right care provider that understands these needs is especially important.

Seniors At Home provides caregivers with awareness training so that they are educated on the particular needs and experiences of seniors of all sexuality and gender identities. As a safe and welcoming place for all older adults, Seniors At Home has coordinated care for many gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals and couples over the years.

Remembering the information he had received from Jim’s skilled nursing facility about in-home care services, Dale reached out to Seniors At Home for support.

A caregiver assisted Jim with daily activities such as dressing, grooming, and getting out of his wheelchair, as well as with his exercises to speed his recovery. He also relieved Dale of domestic responsibilities that had become too difficult for him to manage on his own.

During the couple’s ordeal, the Seniors At Home palliative care team also consulted with them closely—visiting and talking to them regularly by phone—to assess their situation and to make sure that Jim was not experiencing serious discomfort.

Jim and Dale are grateful to have found sensitive and compassionate home care. They are also heartened by Jim’s progress and are happy to report that he is walking again on his own.

To learn more about how Seniors At Home can support you or a loved one, call 415-449-3700 or contact us online.