Even less of it is about sex, but we know (and we know that you know) nursing homes are far from sex-less. Late in life, sex remains an important part of many individuals’ self-identity.
But for far too many Americans, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity feel like things that must be abandoned when they move into long-term care settings.
“Something we see a lot is LGBT elders going back into the closet when they go into a nursing home,” Sydney Kopp-Richardson, director of the Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative, said during a Tuesday roundtable discussion.
SAGE’s motto is: “We refuse to be invisible.”
Yet, a large share — 78% — of Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual still report hiding away this most intimate and true part of themselves when they enter care for fear of being discriminated against or mistreated.
Imagine going to a healthcare facility to recover from surgery, to heal, and feeling that you can’t invite your same-sex spouse to visit. Imagine packing to leave your home and deciding not to bring your favorite outfits, the ones in which you feel most comfortable or happy, because others might think only members of the opposite sex deserve to wear them.
Imagine you’ve spent your life’s savings and must rely on Medicaid to fund your long-term stay. You have few choices when it comes to location but need support, and so you accept a bed even when you overhear staff (or maybe a roommate) make off-color comments about your community. You invite your “friend” for visits, but sex becomes a memory rather than a meaningful part of the life you’re still living.
For LGBT seniors, these are all-too-common scenarios.