For many people in the LGBTQI+ community, accessing residential aged care can make them feel like they have to retreat “back in the closet”. People shouldn’t feel like they need to hide their authentic selves so it’s important you find the right care for your needs. Here are 10 questions to ask about needs in residential aged care (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex plus)
1. Is there a LGBTQI+ inclusion or diversity policy that addresses each of L,G,B,T, Q and I?
Just having a policy in place may not mean your individual circumstances are covered. Check issues that matter to you are included.
2. Is there an inclusive policy around employing staff who are LGBTQI+?
Having staff you can relate to and that understand your individual needs is important. Check if the residential aged care facility has a policy in place for positive inclusion of LGBTQI+ within the staff group.
3. Is there a code of conduct for staff and residents that state discrimination and harassment of LGBTQI+ elders or their families and friends will not be tolerated?
There are laws protecting you against discrimination on basis of sexuality, gender identity or intersex status. These laws also apply to faith based aged care providers.
4. Are LGBTI events like IDAHOBIT**, Mardi Gras, Midsumma, World AIDS Day, Intersex Awareness Day or other LGBTQI+ events celebrated?
Your right to enjoy your lifestyle should not be compromised just because of where you are living. Ask what LGBTQI+ activities have taken place in the past and which are planned. As you walk around, check if there are visual displays that indicate involvement and representation at past events and LGBTQI+ content in the activity program.
5. Have staff received LGBTQI+ inclusivity training and/or is there ongoing training regarding the experiences and needs of LGBTQI+ people?
Check training is part of the induction of new staff and existing staff get regular updates. Staff turnover can be high so check all staff are trained.
6. Are there any LGBTQI+ people accessing the facility or family members/children who are LGBTQI+ that I can talk to?
It is often helpful to speak to people who understand LGBTQI+ issues from the perspective of personal experience. Asking them directly about their experiences may help with your decision. Check if there are links to an LGBTQI+ community visitors program.
7. If I am trans or gender diverse – is there a policy on supporting me in maintaining my affirmed gender or identity?
One of the ways you can test this is to check if the forms you have to complete recognise your gender identity. For example, if they have gender identity options such as male/ female/non-binary. Ask if staff have supported someone to medically and/or socially transition in the past and if they know where to access support if someone was to transition while in the service. Do they have GP’s who are transinclusive and can prescribe hormones?
8. Is there a policy on supporting my relationship with my partner and family of choice?
There should be policies covering sexual expression and communication with your family of choice. Check what arrangements there are to provide private rooms/space for intimacy or time alone with partners.
9. If I am intersex, is there a policy about maintaining my privacy and confidentiality and do staff have an understanding of how to provide care that is respectful of my bodily autonomy?
There should be policies on maintaining privacy and confidentiality. Staff should be aware of the specific experiences of intersex people, including possible historic trauma experiences.
10. Do you have brochures or other information from LGBTQI+ services available?
Check what arrangements are in place for receiving external services and if you will have to pay extra for these. If extra charges are payable, make sure these are clearly stated in your contract with the residential aged care provider.
You may have other questions about LBTQI+ needs in residential aged care – make sure you ask them.
You can check a facility’s website or ask for documents to see if they include information on LGBTQI+ inclusion. Some providers have achieved the Rainbow Tick (LGBTQI+ accreditation). For more information on these providers go to qip.com.au. Remember it is unlawful for any service to discriminate against LGBTQI+ people, however some facilities are better at servicing the LBTQI+ community than others.
You may find these questions to ask about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer intersex needs in residential aged care useful when:
• Searching for a high-quality residential aged care facility
• Reviewing the quality of your current residential aged care facility
• Deciding between two residential aged care facilities that appear similar.
Don’t forget to find out about the nursing care available
It’s important that there are enough registered nurses within the staff skill mix to meet everyone’s needs. You should ask questions about how your individual care needs will be met.
Many staff wear similar uniforms. Just because someone looks like a nurse does not mean they are. Here are the differences:
A Registered Nurse (RN) has undertaken a minimum three-year Bachelor of Nursing course. They can undertake nursing procedures, manage pain medication and help prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.
An Enrolled Nurse (EN) works under the direction of an RN. Both are registered by a regulatory body. Registration ensures professional standards are maintained and protects the public.
Assistants in Nursing (AIN)/Care Workers/Care Service Employees (CSE) are unlicensed. They provide most of the care in residential facilities and communities but their level of training is variable.
*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+)
**International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia
Some useful links:
Carer’s Circle article on 10 questions to ask about staffing in residential aged care –
Carer’s Circle article on Don’t wait for a crisis – start planning your aged care now –
ABC News article titled Many LGBTQI+ seniors fearful of going ‘back in the closet’ in aged care’ – https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-05-26/lgbtqi-seniors-fears-going-back-in-the-closet-aged-care/101092638
Carer’s Circle article on Your parent’s doctor – your partner in caring –
Aged Care Reform Now – a grassroots organisation that is advocating for reform of the aged care system including better staffing and inclusivity training in residential aged care – https://agedcarereformnow.com.au/
Quality Aged Care Action Group (QACAG) – An independent grassroots community action group that lobbies for high quality aged care in all settings including residential and home care. QACAG is an organisational member of the NSW Aged Care Roundtable. It contributes to the development and consumer testing of the ’10 Questions to Ask’ series of consumer-facing resources for people seeking aged care – https://qacag.org.au/
This article “10 questions to ask about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex needs in residential aged care” was originally published as a leaflet on 10questions.org.au. Reproduced with permission.
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