According to research conducted by Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders (SAGE), homosexual senior citizens are more likely to age alone, less likely to have children, and less likely to utilize available elder care services than their heterosexual counterparts. Such individuals are purportedly often afraid of being discriminated against or victimized once they disclose their sexual orientation to health care providers. Sadly, many homosexual seniors also fear being mistreated in a long-term residential care setting.
In SAGE’s report, the organization claims that elderly members of the LGBT community are at a higher risk for abuse and neglect from hostile nursing home staff members and fellow residents than other individuals. In addition, many long-term care facilities reportedly refuse to allow same-sex partners to share a room. The report also claims that because many skilled nursing facility employees are not equipped to address hostility from other patients, homosexual residents are often moved to inappropriate wards or isolation.
An online survey of 769 people that was conducted between October 2009 and June 2010 reportedly fund that most individuals surveyed do not feel that LGBT seniors can safely be open about their sexual orientation with nursing home or long-term care facility staff. Additionally, at least 500 respondents expressed concern over being isolated or discriminated against and 43 percent described instances of mistreatment at a skilled nursing facility that directly resulted from an individual’s sexual orientation. Such mistreatment purportedly included verbal abuse, refused admission, attempts to discharge, and restriction of visitors.
Long-term care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds are required to adhere to the provisions of the federal Nursing Home Care Act. The Act provides all nursing home residents with the right to choose their own physician, the right to privacy, the right to be free from abuse and unnecessary restraint, the right to receive any visitor they choose, and the right to voice complaints regarding the quality of care provided by a facility. The Illinois Act on the Aging was also created in order to protect the rights of senior citizens, including nursing home residents.
Nursing home abuse is not always easy to identify. Skilled nursing facility residents may experience emotional abuse and distress as well as physical harm. When a patient’s rights are violated, he or she may become depressed, attempt to alert friends and family members to the situation, exhibit a loss of appetite, and withdraw. Signs of physical abuse can include unexplained bruises, bedsores, broken bones, and an increased number of accidents. Any suspected instances of nursing home abuse or neglect should be taken seriously and reported immediately.