Image of male nurse pushing senior woman in a wheelchair in nursing facility

Washington state lawmakers heard testimony last week on a bill to improve long-term care for LGBTQ seniors.

The legislation would require state nursing home workers and other long-term service providers to be trained in the needs of patients who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.

The move in Washington is part of a growing effort among advocates to ensure LGBT resident rights.

Since 2011, Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders, or SAGE, has trained more than 13,000 individuals who work in more than 1,600 senior service agencies and long-term care settings. In California last fall, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law a “Bill of Rights” for LGBT long-term care residents.

Patricia McIntyre of the group Generations Aging With Pride testified in favor of the Washington state the bill.

“When older adults who are LGBT fear or encounter discrimination,” McIntyre said, “often they may receive sub-par treatment and they’ll go back in the closet. They’ll go back in the closet or they’ll start to delay medical care. And that should be a concern to all of us.”

According to the national long-term care Ombudsman Resource Center, 27% of LGBT baby boomers have significant concerns about discrimination as they age. While incidents of abuse may be unreported, 89% of individuals responding to a Lambda Law survey felt staff would discriminate against an LGBT senior who was “out of the closet.”

The bill in Washington would require long-term care workers to go through at least one hour of training on the needs of the LGBTQ community. Most must complete a total of 12 hours of advanced training on various topics each year.