Research shows that LGBT older people frequently encounter elder abuse from friends and family members, and in long-term care settings, yet are less likely to report this abuse for fear of further discrimination. Also, because LGBT older people are less likely to have children and more likely to be single, their support networks might be smaller and thus, less available when incidents of elder abuse occur. Ultimately, hostility from residents and staff may cause LGBT elders to withdraw or be excluded from social activities, compounding their profound social isolation.
As with all elder abuse, the abuse of LGBT older people can be mental, financial, physical or sexual, and it can take place in the home, in a hospital, in a long-term care facility or any other setting. While abuse can be perpetrated by aging professionals, research suggests that violence and abuse are more frequently committed by family members and in social settings.
While many older people deal with elder abuse, most incidents go unreported. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, "between 1 and 2 million Americans age 65 or older have been injured, exploited, or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depended for care or protection." Further, NCEA reports that only "1 in 14 incidents, excluding incidents of self-neglect, come to the attention of authorities." LGBT older people—who generally have smaller support networks and might fear further discrimination or being "outed" as LGBT by their abusers—might be less likely to report incidents of elder abuse.
Reports shows that LGBT older adults face hostility from both family members, broadly defined to include friends, as well as aging staff and fellow residents in long-term care facilities. Some of these challenges include: denial of visits from family members or from friends without staff approval; refusal to allow same-sex partners to room together; and refusal to involve families of choice in medical decision making, even when there are legal directives in place. Hostility from residents and staff may cause LGBT elders to withdraw or be excluded from social activities, compounding feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Read some stories from the field. ▶
A recent national study on LGBT health found high rates of victimization and discrimination among LGBT older adults. The study found that 82% reported having been victimized at least once and 64% reported experiencing victimization at least three times in their lives. The report notes: "The most common type of victimization is verbal insults (68%), followed by threats of physical violence (43%), and being hassled by the police (27%). Nearly one in four (23%) have had an object thrown at them, and one-fifth (20%) have had their property damaged or destroyed. Nearly one in five (19%) have been physically assaulted (i.e. punched, kicked, or beaten), 14% threatened with a weapon, and 11% sexually assaulted." Read the full report. ▶
To learn more about elder abuse, please contact Catherine Thurston, Senior Director for Programs, at 212-741-2247 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.