This section was adapted from the “United Way Metro Vancouver Family & Friends Caregivers Information and Resource Handbook 2016/17” with permission from the author.
LGBT2Q Folks (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, 2 Spirited, Queer) face unique challenges, as they become frail elders, and these challenges also extend to their significant others, friends, families and allies (SOFFAs) who care for them. Older LGBT2Q folks faced a great deal of discrimination, ridicule and violence in their lives and – if estranged from families (often through no choice of their own) – a great deal of isolation. Often childless, their social support system can be lacking as a result of feeling invisible and misunderstood, which makes it difficult to build a supportive care team.
The award-winning documentary film Generation Silent (U.S.) reveals some of these challenges as it follows the personal journeys of some LGBTQ seniors. A major theme uncovered, is that the generation that fought hardest to ‘come out’, fears having to ‘go back in the closet’ as they age and enter the health care system needing medical care, home support, and seniors housing. There is concern that the service providers in these care systems are not always ‘safe’ physically, psychologically, or spiritually for queer folk and will discriminate rather than welcome this community. It is important to remember that this is not simply an issue about sex, but rather about the unique LGBTQ culture which refers to a way of life, including beliefs, customs and language.
Choice in Supports for Independent Living (CSIL) program might be available if you are caring for someone with high-intensity care needs. This is a BC Ministry of Health, self-managed care option for home support services where funds are provided to eligible clients to purchase and manage their own outside home support services, allowing for the hiring of queer friendly people. See HOME SUPPORT – HOME AND COMMUNITY CARE (HCC): GOVERNMENT-SUBSIDIZED (PUBLIC) SERVICES for more information about CSIL.
N.B. The Office of the Seniors Advocate September 2015 report Caregivers in Distress: More Respite Needed expressed deep concern about a number of issues, including the need for a simpler, less bureaucratic way to be able to use the CSIL option.
FORGE’s Transgender Aging Network (TAN) a partner of the U.S. National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, is a national advocacy organization for transgender people. Their website, designed for transgender people, is useful for informal (unpaid) as well as professional paid caregivers caring for and all members of the LGTBQ community, including the tip sheet “Quick Tips for Caregivers”.
LGBT End-of-Life Conversations project, in the form of a website, is funded by the Technology Evaluation in the Elderly Network. The name is deceiving as it provides information on many areas of LGBT2Q aging, not just end-of-life. This project believes there is a need to raise awareness about the unique challenges that the LGBT2Q community faces as they get older. The website aims to share services, resources and tools to for aging LGBT2Q persons to afford them the opportunity to take positive action in regards to end-of-life planning. It includes a resource inventory specific to BC, articles addressing various LGBTQ aging issues, and online discussion forums.
LGBT Community Support: Caregiving for our Families and Friends is an online support group that is a safe place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender caregivers to discuss the unique challenges that are faced when caring for their loved ones
Rainbow Caregiver Support Group 604-675-5150 was offered by the Vancouver Resource Centre of the Alzheimer Society of B.C., to give family and friend caregivers caring for someone with dementia access to information. The group was open to queer family caregivers as well as non-queer people who care for a member of LGBT2Q community. Due to low participation, the group is ‘on-hold’; if you would be interested in participating in this Vancouver support group, please advise the resource centre.
Qmunity 604-684-8449, BC’s Queer Resource Centre, has a two-year public education and policy development project “Aging Out Policy Dialogues” through its Seniors/Generations program. The purpose of the dialogues was to create policy recommendations and competency training that effect positive change regarding the understanding of the needs and issues of LGBTQ seniors. The competency training was meant to ensure that proficient care is provided by medical, home support, and seniors housing staff, in a way that creates an inclusive environment. Places that have undergone competency care training display the rainbow sticker on their property and in their materials. When considering home support services or seniors housing for a queer care recipient or caregiver, you can also ask what queer competency training staff has received and if there are queer staff or queer clients. The Qmunity Generations staff can assist.
Transgender Health Information Program (THiP) 604-734-1514 or toll-free (BC only) 1-866-999-1514, or E: firstname.lastname@example.org is a BC-wide information hub providing access to information about gender affirming care and supports, created by Vancouver Coastal Health.