NJ bill aims at eliminating caretaker discrimination against LGBTQ+ seniors

Senior care providers who receive funding from the state could be required to complete cultural competency training focused on sexual orientation and gender identity if a proposed bill passes.

The bill aims to help providers better understand LGBTQ+ topics and eliminate discrimination that LGBTQ+ people fear when finding care or housing.

LGBTQ+ people are fearful when they enter nursing homes, said Gordon Sauer, who leads the Jersey City chapter of SAGE, a national organization that advocates for LGBTQ+ seniors.

“They’re thinking, ‘OK, do I need to hide who I am? am I going to get discriminated against?’ ” Sauer said.

More than 60% of LGBTQ+ adults over 45 years old are concerned about long-term care facilities and possible neglect, abuse, harassment and limited LGBTQ+-specific services, according to a 2018 AARP survey. Thirty-four percent of LGBTQ+ respondents and 54% of gende diverse respondents reported fearing they would need to hide their identity to access suitable housing.

Another study conducted by SAGE and the Equal Rights Center found 48% of older same-sex couples applying for senior housing experienced some form of discrimination.

Concerned about that, LGBTQ+ senior citizens who grew up before the LGBTQ+ rights movement era feel more comfortable calling their same sex partners terms like “roommate” or “special friend,” said Tony Kudner, the vice president of communications and public affairs for Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care in Edison.

For this reason, among others, Kudner said LGBTQ+ people have “specific and nuanced” needs in nursing homes and end-of-life care that providers need to be aware of.

This article was originally published in New Jersey Herald on January 26, 2021