Finding the right care home can be tough, but what extra hurdles are there for people in the LGBT community? How can you find an inclusive care setting? Here, Professor Ben Thomas, from Charity Opening Doors gives his advice on how to find an LGBTQ+ friendly care home, and how care settings can better support older LGBT people.
Older LGBTQ+ people are more likely to live alone, not have children and are often estranged from their biological families. Generally, they have poorer physical and mental health than their heterosexual and cisgender peers and the majority will have experienced significant stigma and discrimination during their lives. Many report negative experiences of health and social care services. Older LGBTQ+ people including those who live alone may have physical impairment and long-lasting illnesses or health conditions and therefore may be in greater need of using statutory health and social care services.
The importance of LGBTQ+ friendly care homes
Older LGBTQ+ are often more concerned about the implications of ageing in relation to care needs than heterosexual and cisgender people. This is especially true about having to move into residential accommodation as they age, because of fears of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and heteronormativity. This uncertainty or reluctance to move into care, should the need arise, is understandable.
Given the choice many LGBTQ+ people would prefer to either be in a LGBTQ+ exclusive care home or one that was LGBTQ+ accredited and affirming. Unfortunately, in the UK there are very few exclusive LGBTQ+ residential homes and these are mainly found in large cities. However, more and more care home companies are recognising that they need to be more inclusive and welcoming to residents who identify as LGBTQ+; and to those who are disinclined to disclose their sexual orientation for fear of discrimination.
What to look for in your search
Whether you are looking for a residential LGBTQ+ retirement home, a setting that provides a high level of nursing support, or a dedicated retirement community like Tonic Housing, there are things you can look out for.
The ‘Pride in Care’ quality standard
Over the past five years Opening Doors has been working with numerous independent care home companies and those provided by local authorities to bring about positive changes by making services as inclusive as possible for older LGBTQ+ people. Organisations who complete a process of benchmarking and accreditation, are eligible for the ‘Pride in Care’ quality standard. The ‘Pride in Care’ quality standard lasts for three years, and is attained through a short, step-by-step accreditation process.
Our team of specialist LGBTQ+ quality advisors offer:
- Policy reviews to ensure policies and procedures are inclusive and explicitly reference LGBTQ+ people
- A staff survey looking at knowledge and attitudes
- Internal training to raise awareness, improving understanding and attitudes about the lives of older LGBTQ+ people
- Ongoing consultancy including advice on imagery and language, representation of difference on websites, promotional literature and information packs
Attainment of this UK-registered award gives a care home full use of Pride in Care branding, raising their equalities profile and demonstrating their commitment to deliver high-quality inclusive, safe and supportive services to older LGBTQ+ people. For more information about the Pride in Care quality standard, please email email@example.com
The Pride in Care quality standard helps older LGBTQ+ people identify a care home that meets their needs and preferences in the area they choose. People can be assured that staff will have a positive affirming attitude and that individuals will be treated with dignity and respect.
Pay close attention to the homes’ literature and website
If none of the care homes in a particular area have been through the Pride in Care accreditation, then there are a number of ways to identify if a care home is an inclusive care setting. In addition to making sure the home provides the level of care you are looking for or may require in the future, reading the home’s brochure or website will give an indication of its commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusiveness. Look out for clearly identifiable rainbow emblems and logos, and images of same-sex couples. Promotional literature may also have positive statements such as welcoming LGBTQ+ people and same sex-partners.
Care homes whose staff have been trained in LGBTQ+ awareness often display this information. Some care homes link up with local LGBTQ+ charities, communities and organizations and consult on their inclusion work others often host activities and celebrate diversity such as Silver Pride events.
Visit the care setting
Whereas websites and brochures provide a helpful indication of the inclusiveness of a care home nothing compares to visiting in person. Visiting your preferred care home a few times will help you form your own impression of the atmosphere, the culture and the quality of care. Many care homes provide respite care where you can spend a few days or weeks to find out what life is like at the care home.
Meeting and getting to know staff and other residents provide opportunities to ask questions, particularly about inclusivity, policies and procedures, safety and privacy. Do not be afraid to ask if there have been any instances of discrimination or what would staff do in such cases. Do not be fobbed off by the expression ‘we treat everyone equally.’ Providing inclusive care is not about everybody being treated equally, or receiving the same care. It is about people being treated as individuals and receiving quality care that meets their needs.
Review their policies and procedures
Ask to see the care homes’ policies and procedures and check if they are LGBTQ+ inclusive. Policies and procedures set the tone of the organisation, they provide direction and guidance to staff of what the organisation expects of them, how they behave and what is unacceptable behaviour. Knowing that policies and procedures are LGBTQ+ inclusive will provide you with confidence. It will also reassure you that will be treated respectfully and that discrimination will not be tolerated.
Involve those important to you
Every older LGBTQ+ person is unique and will have their own history, life circumstances and interests. You may be transgender and be particularly worried about personal care and privacy. You may be a same-sex couple and will need to find a home that welcomes same-sex partners and allows private time for couples and the sharing of rooms. When visiting a care home include your partner, a family member of choice or friend who can support you during this time of change in your life.
Be clear about your needs
Most of all make sure you are clear about what you need and make those needs explicit to care providers. Before making any decision, you must feel comfortable and confident that the care home provider will deliver on what you need and will provide you with the best care and support possible.
Professor Ben Thomas is the Research and Policy Coordinator, Opening Doors. Find out more about the Charity here