Transgender Army veteran rejected by ‘dozens’ of long-term care facilities highlights rising issue before operators

A leading advocacy group for LGBTQ+ seniors says specialized inclusivity training can help providers avoid situations such as the one that recently saw a U.S. Army veteran rejected by “dozens” of facilities, allegedly because she is transgender.

Manages and staff should both receive the training, an expert said.

“When long-term care providers commit to LGBTQ+ inclusivity, they open their doors to serving [and] meeting the diverse needs of their communities,” Sherrill Wayland, director of national education initiatives for Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Tuesday.

Lisa Oakley, 68, a Colorado resident, recently described her experience of searching for a long-term care facility in a USA Today report. After a facility in her small town of Craig, CO, rejected her, she said she was then denied by more than 60 facilities.

“When they found out I was transgender, a lot of facilities didn’t want me,” Oakley said. “A lot of transgender people, I’m sure, face the same thing. We’re humans, just like everybody else.”

Oakley worked with Cori Martin-Crawford, a care-coordinator at a local hospital, and she ended up being admitted to a facility at Eagle Ridge of Grand Valley, in Grand Junction, CO, in February. The facility staff have participated in LGBTQ sensitivity training, according to the news report. The facility, however, is three hours away from Martin-Crawford’s hometown.

“I have a saying that if you don’t take time to read the book and just judge a cover, you might miss a good story or a good friendship,” Oakley told local media. “I love all the staff down here. They love me.”

Wayland said it’s common to hear stories about older LGBTQ+ people struggling to find LGBTQ+ welcoming long-term care communities. A SAGE Out and Visible report found that 13% of LGBTQ+ adults and 25% of transgender adults said they’ve been discriminated against when searching for housing on the basis of their sexual orientations and gender identities.

Currently, 7% of adults aged 65 and older are LGBTQ+, according to data by the Williams Institute based at the UCLA School of Law.

“Many , if not most, long-term care providers share a common goal of providing housing supports and services to their community. Long-term care providers are learning that older LGBTQ+ adults are a part of their communities and in need of their services,” Wayland said. “Thankfully, more and more providers are embracing LGBTQ+ inclusivity as a part of their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

She added that more trans elders are speaking up and fighting back using legal resources. Wayland added that currently 29 states do not have laws that explicitly protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination.

She also encouraged providers to take advantage of SAGE’s and other training and credentialing programs that provide a number of management and staff training to help support long-term care providers who want to increase their LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

“Long-term care residential providers can take part in the Long-term Care Equality Index (LEI), a program of SAGE and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation,” Wayland said. “The LEI works with residential providers to adopt policies and best practices that provide culturally competent and responsive care to LGBTQ+ older adults.”

This article was originally published in McKnight’s Long Term Care News on November 17, 2021.

The Ariadne Getty Foundation Senior Housing facility opened this week in Los Angeles. (Blade file photo)