LGBT residents deserve better: geriatric society

The American Geriatric Society on Wednesday issued a broad policy statement calling for long-term care health professionals to “pioneer” procedures and policies designed to more equitably and fairly treat lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

AGS said that health facilities in general today are well below 100% compliance with regulations prohibiting LGBT discrimination, a trend it hopes to reverse over the next few years.

The AGS position paper charts a path that calls for a number of changes, including an enhanced research agenda. A 2011 study, for example, found that only 0.3% of articles in the massive databases of PubMed, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine®, addressed LGBT health.

“Like aging, sexual orientation, gender, and other stigmatized personal characteristics can pose barriers to high-quality, patient-centered care,” Joseph Shega, MD, AGS Ethics Committee chair, noted in Wednesday's statement.

Among the AGS' recommendations:

• Create, evaluate, and publicize policies for equal treatment of LGBT patients regardless of age

• Implement LGBT health training programs for professionals who treat older individuals

• Ensure that older LGBT adult care reflects the particular healthcare and social circumstances these patients face, from the role of partners and chosen family members in health decisions to the need for a supportive culture of respect

Only 22% of older LGBT adults in supportive living facilities have told researchers they feel comfortable being open with staff about sexual orientation or gender identity, and evidence suggests that LGBT patients who sense a clinician's discomfort or lack of knowledge may be less inclined to pursue important healthcare decisions, according to the AGS.