LGBT fear treatment in long-term care

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A majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults believe that staff at long-term care facilities would discriminate against them, according to a new report.

While not a scientific study, the National Senior Citizens Law Center's “LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field” includes data from 769 adults who completed an online survey from October 2009 to June 2010. Nearly 300 respondents identified themselves as LGBT older adults; the rest were family members, friends, legal and social service providers.

Almost all — 89% — predicted that staff would discriminate against a LGBT older adult, while 43% reported 853 overall instances of mistreatment. Twenty-two percent said they could be open with  facility staff.

“The fears aren't groundless,” says NSCLC spokesman Scott L. Parkin. “We need to pay close attention to what people's rights are.”

In addition to instances of restrictions on visitors, refusal of medical or basic treatment, and harassment, respondents reported 97 instances involving provider power of attorney.

A Washington lawyer wrote of a client hit by a car, citing that the victim and his partner had no healthcare provider power of attorney in place.

“Brian's family took over his care at the hospital, excluded his partner and tried to convert Brian back to being straight,” she wrote. “Luckily, this couple had registered as domestic partners years before in Kings County, Washington, and we were able to petition for a change in guardianship. This case took litigation and a lot of money to fix.”

Parkin suggests that long-term care operators can use the report to start a conversation with their employees about residents' rights.

Among other laws, the Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) protects those in federally certified nursing homes from being discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity.