Gay and lesbian senior citizens may have lived for years out of the closet, having seen a host of incredible milestones in their lives: widespread marriage rights, activism for AIDS causes and a large number of celebrities who are “out.”
However, Broward nursing home abuse attorneys understand that for many who are now seeking long-term assisted care, they feel pressure to go back into the closet. Even those who were open about their lives with their friends and family fear abuse, neglect or discrimination by staffers or other residents if they are “outed.”
It’s a scary prospect as you become more and more reliant on others for your everyday needs. Find one person who disagrees with your views or lifestyle, and you risk worse than the occasional slur.
It’s an issue that was addressed in a recent article in the Sun-Sentinel, which covered the screening of a documentary on the very issue. The one hour film focuses on LGBT seniors who are now living in nursing homes. They open up to discuss how they feel there are no guarantees with regard to equal treatment in these homes – and sadly, they’re right.
We don’t know exactly how many LGBT seniors are currently living in Florida nursing homes right now, but we can estimate that it’s about 10 percent, which is the average of the overall population that is homosexual. Common estimates are that there are approximately 54,000 homosexual seniors living in Broward and Palm Beach counties today.
One of the subjects of the film, a woman whose partner of 22 years was suffering dementia, talks about how aides frequently made them feel uncomfortable. In one situation, a nurse offered to pray for the patient that she may be forgiven of her sin of being gay.
This in and of itself isn’t considered abusive or neglectful. However, given the track record of faltering physical care in these facilities, it certainly make one wonder whether prejudices can increase the potential for neglect and abuse.
A national survey done two years ago on the topic indicated that of about 770 gay seniors living in nursing homes, 43 percent reported some type of mistreatment by staff or fellow patients.
The most common complaint was abuse or harassment by other residents. This accounted for about 25 percent of all the problems faced by LGBT patients. This is not surprising, given that long-held attitudes and beliefs die hard. For many years, discrimination and harassment of gays and lesbians were the norm. Many people aren’t able to let go of those beliefs. The problem is, now they’re living side-by-side, and sometimes in the same room.
Additional problems included that about 20 percent of LGBT patients were abruptly discharged from their facility – a far higher rate than their straight counterparts.
A number also admitted verbal and physical harassment from staff, specifically pertaining to their sexual orientation.
What’s worse is that for many of them, the fact that they are gay has often served to isolate them from friends or family members. This is often a common thread in many abuse and neglect scenarios. With no one to closely watch after them, they are more vulnerable than their straight counterparts.
About 75 percent of LGBT respondents in another poll said they would likely hide their sexual orientation if they ended up in an institution.
Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Nursing homes can push gay seniors back into closet, By Diane C. Lade, Sun Sentinel