LGBT Caregiving: Facing Challenges and Finding Joy

Old age, chronic disease and physical limitations are unbiased in their impact on aging adults. LGBT adults are unfortunately faced with prejudice, legal barriers and a challenging healthcare system. In addition to legal challenges, the majority of LGBT adults (above the age of 65) are without a partner and about 90% are without children. That percentage is in comparison to only 20% of the entire older adult population having no children. This raises a serious challenge for older adults on being able to rely on the informal caregiver community.

The intent of this blog is to express our deepest appreciation for all caregivers and the love and compassion they show for their aging loved ones. In particular, we want to raise awareness of the challenges faced by LGBT adults.

The Difference Between LGBT and non-LGBT Caregiving

LGBT older adults are twice as likely to age as a single person, twice as likely to live alone and three to four times less likely to have children to support them. The LGBT caregivers will typically have limited access to services in their community supportive or welcoming of LGBT adults. In many situations, the families may not always be recognized under the law in legal, financial or other situations. The needs of LGBT and non-LGBT caregivers and their aging loved ones are more similar than different, but the protections, regulations and community resources will vary.

Health Problems and Prejudice

It has been found that rates of depression, heart disease, obesity and other chronic conditions are higher among older adults who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It is essential to receive the appropriate care for mental and physical health so keep in mind that if the service provider is federally‐funded through the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid, they are prohibited from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Managing the Finances

In many situations, LGBT adults are financially unprepared for older age. This is in part due to the history of discrimination in salary disparity, hiring practices and other prejudice practices. Additional challenges exist for partners having access to financial documents without having durable power of attorney.

Chosen Families and Caregiving

Many LGBT adults form strong chosen families. A chosen family is considered a “nonbiological kinship bond, whether legally recognized or not, deliberately chosen for the purpose of mutual support and love.” Nearly two-thirds of LGBT older adults say they consider their friends to be chosen family. According to Caregive.com, “even as attitudes have changed and LGBT people have become more visible and accepted, families of choice still provide invaluable networks of emotional and social support.”

Available Resources and Advocates

For people who seek welcoming, inclusive caregiving, many recommend SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders) as an excellent starting point recognized by AARP and other national organizations.

If you are among the 9% of older adults who identify as LGBT or support their rights, share this information with your family and loved ones. We will continue to support caregivers and appreciate all that you do.


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