When James* was diagnosed with lung cancer in his 80s, he was in a pretty good place compared to many of his peers. He had a solid network of supportive friends, and he had planned well. But James, a gay WWII veteran, needed help finding LGBT-friendly healthcare providers who would supply quality, consistent care in his last days. To do that, he turned to SAGE Atlanta, the five-year-old local chapter of SAGE USA, the country’s largest and oldest organization focused on LGBT seniors.
“When the time came, we helped him identify the best hospice and home health providers for LGBT individuals, so that he could end his life in the way that he wanted to,” says Linda Ellis, executive director of the Health Initiative, which oversees SAGE Atlanta. In addition to acting as an educational and referral resource for the LGBT community—often working in partnership with AARP Georgia, the Atlanta Regional Commission, and the Georgia Division of Aging Services—SAGE provides training for service providers like senior living centers, home health aides, doctors, and hospitals.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure that the senior center in your neighborhood or the assisted living facility that you can afford is LGBT friendly and supportive,” says Ellis. “And we’ll hold their hands as well, helping them figure out how to provide those resources and train their staffs and live out that commitment.”
“There’s a huge need for it,” says Anne McSweeney, president of CEU Concepts, who has worked with SAGE to offer continuing education courses for healthcare professionals. “Many times providers don’t realize what they’re missing until they’re in a situation with an LGBT client and they’re not sure how to proceed. You can see the lightbulbs going off in the room.”Read More ▶