Kimberly Marselas

More than 20 years after Brandi Chastain ripped off her jersey after winning a World Cup final on penalty kicks, I’m just learning to appreciate the spectacle now taking place in Qatar.

Maybe it’s because a decade of watching my kids play has finally taught me the nebulous concept of being offside. More likely, it’s the drama of the games themselves and the fact that the international sports stage has always been a powerful place to make a political statement.

Chastain’s was unintentional, leading to all kinds of offensive questions about acceptable behavior for female athletes and role models, questions I would argue have not aged well.

This year’s World Cup is already delivering on big-time plays and emotional protests, but the early days have also reminded us about the Cup host’s darker side. Despite promises to allow free expression, organizers, security officials and local fans have not done enough to be inclusive.

Several international fans reported early this week that they had been bullied on public transportation and refused admission to games because they were wearing shirts with rainbows, widely viewed as an embrace of the LGBTQ community.

This is so much more than another World Cup T-shirt controversy, especially coming as it does on the heels of the Colorado nightclub shooting.

Turns out, we don’t have to look halfway around the world to see the way hate divides us. The last few years have allowed vitriol and hate speech to erode advances in tolerance that were finally allowing some marginalized groups to live more comfortably both in American society at large and in some senior care settings.

American media Tuesday morning seemed taken aback by the idea that one of the world’s most conservative nations (though maybe progressive by Gulf standards) would permit such hateful acts against foreign visitors.

Then, in the next breath, they reported follow-ups from the Colorado Springs massacre that left five people dead and more injured. It was a blatant hate crime in a state where pockets of intolerance persist despite an overall perception of progressiveness.

This weekend’s shooting, and a rise in anti-gay rhetoric across the US, serve as ugly reminders that now is not the time to ease up on efforts to make senior living more inclusive. Many providers have begun tackling this issue head on in the last few years.

But in this moment, nursing homes and the entire senior care continuum owe it to all of their residents to say: Hate has no home here, but you do.

Adopt policies that ensure that you can mean it when you say it. Don’t just posture on social media platforms in the wake of tragedy. Truly embrace inclusivity and make sure staff, residents and visitors get the message.

In nursing homes, it’s especially important to take note of the impact, no matter where you are on your journey to promoting accepting care for LGBTQ seniors. New rules on providing trauma-informed care may trigger required interventions for those whose lives have too often been dictated by fear and prejudice.

Many residents seeing the news from Qatar and Colorado in the last couple of days are once again questioning their own safety, their comfort level with those living near them and their trust in the staff caring for them.  Please provide support with the warmth and compassion the nursing community has long been revered for.

On that, it’s time providers step up. That’s a goal everyone whose job is to care for others should be able to get behind.

Kimberly Marselas is senior editor of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.
Opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News columns are not necessarily those of McKnight’s.