Friday, August 12, 2011

LGBT Elders: Equality and Equity Concerns

Minister for the Aging of Quebec, Marguerite Blais, has announced a Charter for the protection of elderly homosexuals. Now that the population of LGBT folk who have come out is aging and entering care centers and hospitals, there is a risk of elder abuse and homophobia against them in these settings.

This charter is something that all care institutions can sign, setting up best practices, and committing themselves to the equal treatment and recognition of the inherent dignity of all people, including LGBT's, as they age and become more vulnerable and dependent on the care of others. This is progress.

Elder abuse is an issue regardless of orientation. It is hard to believe that the elderly may become the targets of abuse, but it does occur. The abuse ranges from physical and emotional abuse to neglect, or exploitation like theft or embezzlement of funds under a trustee's care. When sexual orientation is added to the mix, societal homophobia can increase the elderly's vulnerability.

USA National trends in abuse of vulnerable adults sixty and older (from Adult Protective Services):

    Estimates of the frequency of elder abuse range from 2 to 10% (Lachs & Pillemer, 2004). 
    One in 14 incidents, excluding self-neglect, come to the attention of authorities (Pillemer & Finkelhor, 1998). 
    The overall reporting of financial exploitation is only 1 in 25 cases, suggesting at least five million financial abuse victims each year (Wasik, 2000). 
    One large survey of staff working in nursing homes found that 36% had observed physical abuse and 81% witnessed psychological abuse (Pillemer & Moore, 1989).  
And of course, even aside from abuse, elders in the LGBT community face particular challenges, which vary from country to country. In the USA, these challenges include inequality in a range of public and social programs (like social security, etc.).

For more information:

    A link to a US community-based organization that serves the needs of LGBT elders, Senior Action in a Gay Environment (SAGE);

    a report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on public policy issues facing LGBT elders;

    National Center on Elder Abuse "Statistics At Glance."