FCA is pleased to announce the inauguration of the Caring Community Project, a new program focused on increasing outreach and expanding services to assist people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) and caring for a partner, friend or family member who is 60 years or older.
FCA has always welcomed and provided agency services to LGBT individuals taking care of same-sex partners or friends, as well as LGBT adult children caring for aging parents. Now we will be able to reach out to a greater number of LGBT caregivers and provide targeted information, education, and support. Funding for this program is made available in part by the Older Americans Act, administered locally by the San Francisco
Office on Aging.
Awareness of the unique challenges facing a member of the LGBT community caring for an older adult is increasing. Older LGBT individuals can be reluctant to contact community agencies that they are unfamiliar with to access information and resources. Although some things have changed in recent years, older LGBT individuals have lived through decades when their sexual preference was considered a crime or a mental illness. To avoid incarceration, placement in a mental institution, or the loss of job, housing or family support, many decided to remain hidden,
“in the closet.”
Past experiences with lack of understanding, hostility, and harassment may cause older LGBT caregivers to be fearful that, when contacting a community provider, they will experience prejudice instead of help and support; they may decide it is safer just to go it alone. As a further challenge, many of the legal and financial protections and benefits available to married couples (such as financing of long-term care, hospital visitations, rights of next-of-kin, spousal benefits) are not currently available to LGBT couples, who cannot legally marry.
Younger LGBT caregivers have some particular challenges as well. It is not uncommon for unmarried children, or those who are not parents themselves, to become the primary caregivers for an aging parent or other relative. Siblings who have their own children to care for may view their “unmarried” LGBT brother or sister as having fewer “family” responsibilities. Taking on this primary caregiving role can mean caring for a parent or other relative who has never fully understood or supported their LGBT son or daughter. This can be especially difficult when an elderly parent, who needs regular care and supervision, moves in with their daughter or son and her/his partner.
The Caring Community Project will include a variety of programs and services in 2002 to address a number of these challenges. FCA will offer an online LGBT caregiver support group beginning in the Spring, and a workshop and LGBT Caregiver Retreat by early summer.
Two new Fact Sheets, including one on Legal/Financial issues for LGBT caregivers, will also be available later this year. Finally, FCA is seeking further input, through a survey, from the LGBT community on specific caregiving needs and concerns so we can target our future education and outreach efforts.
These programs are sponsored in collaboration with the National Center for Lesbian Rights; New Leaf Outreach to Elders; Spectrum Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns of Marin County; and the Institute on Aging.
If you are interested in taking part in this survey, or would like more information about any of our programs and services for LGBT caregivers, please call FCA at (800) 445-8106 and ask for the Caring Community Project.