Senior gay man smiling during lgbt pride protest
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A national bioethics expert is hopeful providers will build on a new executive order providing protection for LGBTQI+ seniors in long-term care settings and develop policies and training opportunities for residents, staff and families.

President Biden last week issued the unprecedented order as he marked June as Pride Month. The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to publish a “Bill of Rights for LGBTQI+ Older Adults” that would help residents and providers better understand the rights of LGBTQI+ seniors in long-term care settings. 

It also calls on HHS to develop new guidance on non-discrimination protections “on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics, and other rights” of LGBTQI+ older adults in long-term care. 

Biden’s order comes just days after the settlement of a historic, transgender discrimination lawsuit where a Maine provider was accused of violating the state’s nondiscrimination protections after allegedly denying a transgender woman a room due to her sexual orientation. 

“The topic of sexuality in nursing homes is complex; caregivers are often unsure whether and how to support older adults’ desire to have sexual relationships,” said Howard B. Degenholtz, Ph.D., professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburg’s School of Public Health. 

Degenholtz said many nursing homes don’t have policies on this topic at all, much less policies that support the rights of non-heterosexual older adults to openly express their identity and “form emotionally rewarding and affectionate, sexual relationships.”  

“This stems in part from ageism, paternalism, and also concern about the ability to consent among people with cognitive impairment,” he told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Tuesday. 

He added that a “healthy sexuality is part of a good quality of life.” He’s “hopeful that this executive order will lead to best practice guidelines that are accessible and useful in training staff, educating families, and also informing state surveyors.”

See our sister site McKnight’s Senior Living for additional coverage on the topic.