LGBT Seniors Face Healthcare and Treatment Discrimination

By Phil G Zepeda

According to the National Council on Aging, up to 3.8 million older Americans identify themselves as LGBT. This number is estimated to rise to 7.2 million by 2030. The survey also states, “LGBT seniors are more likely than other seniors to be economically insecure and to have chronic conditions such a drug and alcohol addiction, cancer and obesity. Yet stigma and isolation can prevent LGBT seniors from seeking necessary assistance from health and social service organizations.”

In March 2012, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and New York City’s Department for the Aging cut the ribbon for the SAGE Innovative Senior Center. “It is the first center of its kind in the city that will provide social services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors.” It is a “full service” center that will provide food and other services to the community.

Such comprehensive services as those offered at this center are not the norm in the US today. According to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health presentation, older LGBT adults:

  • Are mostly invisible
  • Don’t generally identify publicly as members of the greater LGBT community
  • Are at high risk for substance abuse because of past negative social attitudes

Older LGBT individuals also face social services discrimination, healthcare discrimination, housing discrimination and antigay emotional abuse. They tend to be silent about this both inside and outside the LGBT community.

According to the DC Center for the LGBT Community, seniors in this demographic experience higher percentages of:

  • Poverty and economic insecurity
  • Lack of health insurance
  • Institutional discrimination
  • Rectal and anal cancer
  • Untreated medical conditions
  • PTSD
  • Long-term substance abuse

The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging states that the number of older adults suffering from HIV/AIDS is increasing. In fact, from 2001 to 2007, the number infected individuals aged 50 and older increased 61%.

Recent studies and national surveys on sexuality in older adults found that 53% of adults between ages 65 and 74 and 26% of adults aged 75 to 85 are sexually active with one or more partners. The studies also found that these two age groups were less likely to seek HIV/AIDS testing.

Reports on older LGBT adults newly infected with HIV/AIDS found them struggling to negotiate programs required to manage the infections. Research also indicates that older LGBT individuals experience discrimination and stigma when seeking healthcare to manage infectious diseases.

Studies have shown that, when compared with the general population, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are:

  • More likely to have higher rates of substance abuse
  • Less likely to abstain from alcohol and drug use
  • More likely to continue heavy drinking later in life

Alcohol and drug use among LGBT seniors can be a reaction to homophobia, discrimination or violence they experienced due to their sexual orientation. Substance abuse has been linked to risky sexual behaviors such as practicing unsafe sex or having sex with multiple partners, both of which may increase the likelihood of contracting STDs such as HIV/AIDS.

The underlying causes of substance abuse in older LGBT individuals must be addressed in an integrated, comprehensive LGBT friendly substance abuse treatment program. Substance abuse is also associated with a wide range of mental health problems. When an individual suffers from an addiction and an independently existing mental health disorder, it is referred to as a dual diagnosis. The need for LGBT friendly dual diagnosis treatment programs increases as the number of people in this demographic suffering from dual diagnoses climbs.

In 2010, the US Department of Health and Human Services established the first national resource center for older LGBT individuals. It also established a number of new regulations securing rights of same sex partners in hospitals and nursing homes. There are only a few truly qualified LGBT friendly programs across the nation. Find out what constitutes a quality, integrated LGBT drug and alcohol rehab program.

Article Source:  LGBT Seniors Face Healthcare and Treatment Discrimination