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January 29, 2018

LGBT caregivers and caregivers to LGBT older adults

California Task Force on Caregiving
By Staff
Aging: it is an inevitable part of living, but it isn’t always easy. For many in the U.S., aging is accompanied by disability, onset of new diseases, and a changing social networks and social roles. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults face these same struggles, along with many other challenges.

There are 1.5 million LGBT older adults in the United States, a number projected to rise to 3 million by 2030.[1] LGBT older adults have higher rates of depression, heart disease, risk for HIV, obesity, and addiction compared to the rest of the U.S. population.[2] High rates of these conditions can contribute a greater need for care, as well as different demands on caregivers than those experienced by caregivers to heterosexual and cis-gendered older people.

In addition to physical challenges, LGBT older adults also experience more social difficulties compared to heterosexual and cis-gendered older people. The current cohort of LGBT older adults came of age in a time where homosexuality was met with greater hostility than is common today. Many hid their identity for years while experiencing feelings of guilt and shame due to prejudicial norms. LGBT people were—and are— often fired from jobs, shunned by their families, and faced discrimination when trying to access medical and social services.[3] They are also twice as likely to remain single throughout their lifetime, twice as likely to live by themselves, and three less likely to have children who could provide support. [4] Due to these factors, older LGBT adults are less likely to be financially stable for retirement, to have long-term care insurance, and are at great risk of isolation.[5] Isolation and limited financial resources also means that LGBT older adults experience unmet care needs.

Further, nine percent of caregivers in the United States identify as LGBT.[6] LGBT people are more likely to become caregivers compared to the general population.  When siblings start a family of their own, they are left to care for aging parents.[7] While caregiving, LGBT caregivers also have less support from their biological family members, contributing to strain on the caregiver, because of family tensions surrounding the recipient’s sexual identity.[8]Formal support services also fall short. Most groups, for example, do not address needs specific to LGBT people.[9]

There is hope that future cohorts of LGBT older adults will face fewer challenges. There has been a growing amount of recognition of the unique issues that older LGBT adults face, and advocacy groups are specializing programs for LGBT caregivers.[10] SAGE, an advocacy group for LGBT elders, educates and trains medical and social service providers to understand and recognize the distinctive needs of LGBT adults.[11] The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging also provides a variety of health, policy, and legal information.[12] For even more resources, visit AARP’s website at

[1] Gurnon, Emily. “Why Aging & Caregiving Is Harder for LGBT Adults.” Next Avenue. March 31, 2016. Accessed November 29, 2017.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “LGBT Caregiving Facts.” National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. April 2011. Accessed November 29, 2017.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Esposito, Lisa. “LGBT Caregiver Perspectives.” U.S. News & World Report. November 2, 2016. Accessed November 29, 2017.

[7] Gurnon, Emily. “Why Aging & Caregiving Is Harder for LGBT Adults.”

[8] “LGBT Caregiving: Frequently Asked Questions.” Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving. Accessed November 29, 2017.

[9] “Special Concerns of LGBT Caregivers.” Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving. Accessed November 29, 2017.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Esposito, Lisa. “LGBT Caregiver Perspectives.”


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