The Experience of Living in Long-Term Care for LGBT Individuals: Perspectives from Residents and Stakeholders

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Green, Maureen
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Because older lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals face challenges due to ageism, homophobia/transphobia, and/or heterosexism, hiding their sexual identity may be a common coping mechanism to avoid discrimination. Due to these multiple forms of marginalization, sexual minority individuals are more likely to live alone than heterosexual individuals. They are also at greater risk of entering long-term care (LTC) facilities where they may feel they have no other choice but to hide their sexual identities, but little is known about their experiences. This study used qualitative, descriptive methodology and was guided by the ecological perspective, minority stress theory, and intersectionality theory. Indepth, semi-structured interviews were completed with two LGBT residents, two LGBT activists, and two LTC workers. Interviews focused on their subjective, personal understanding of their experiences and the experiences of LGBT individuals in LTC. Three themes emerged in the analysis. First, LTC residents were hesitant to reveal their sexual identity due to potential discrimination from residents and staff members in their facilities. Residents had heard of stories about other residents being maltreated on the basis of their sexual orientation, and their health-related vulnerability enhanced their fears. This feeling was validated by the stakeholders, who had also heard similar negative stories. Second, fear of discrimination was buffered by positive relationships with others within and outside of the LTC facility. Support networks were important in LTC and LGBT Individuals providing a positive environment for the residents, and this feeling was echoed by the stakeholder participants. Access to supportive services was important, and the participants worried about the availability of such services for those residing in smaller cities or rural areas. Third, the environments with which LGBT participants interacted played a big part in their overall experience in LTC. Having to move from their home into an institution meant they had to give up control over the timing of day-to-day activities and who cared for them. The political climate of the LTC facility also factored into their experiences, where living smaller, rural areas (for example) made it more difficult to access supportive services. Finally, participants also felt positively about the idea of having an LGBT-friendly LTC facility available, though one had reservations about it, feeling it was unnecessarily contributing to segregation and not dealing with the root of the problem.
lesbian , gay , bisexual , transgender , LGBT , long term care , ageism , homophobia , transphobia , heterosexism , marginalization , sexual minority