Using health and care services – LGBT concerns
If you are lesbian, gay, bi and/or trans, you may have related concerns about being treated with respect when using health and care services.
This may be because you’ve had previous negative experiences of using these services because of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, or you may be anticipating discrimination. You may also feel uncomfortable being out to people you don’t know and trust on a personal level, and if you have a partner you may feel worried about how they’ll be treated.
But even if you do have these, or similar, concerns, it’s really important that you access care and support when you need it. Knowing you have somewhere to turn to support your health needs can make all the difference in leading a happy, healthy life.
Addressing discrimination in care homes
We asked the LGBT rights charity Stonewall about the barriers that LGBT people may face when using health and care services. This is what they said:
Lesbian, gay, bit and trans people in later life often experience specific forms of discrimination that go unnoticed by others around them. This can lead to isolation and even going back into the closet. It’s concerning that this may lead people to avoid accessing the services they need. It’s vital (that) health and social care staff are trained to understand and meet the unique needs of older LGBT service users.
If you are discriminated against for your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, know that the Equality Act 2010 is on your side. It may count as unlawful discrimination if, for example, if a care home refuses to house a same-sex couple together if opposite-sex couples are given that opportunity.
Discrimination doesn’t need to be direct to count as unlawful, either. For example, it could be a way of doing things that puts you at a disadvantage compared to others.
For information on what to do if you’re a victim of unlawful discrimination, see our full advice on tackling discrimination in health and care services.
Finding appropriate care home provision if you’re lesbian, gay, bi and/or trans
First of all, make a shortlist of feasible options using our care services directory. You simply select the care home option (or specify residential or nursing homes), and enter a postcode. You can then scroll through local options and see official ratings for those in England and Scotland, contact details and further information for each search result.
You’ll then want to do some further digging. To find out whether the care home will be attuned to any of your needs related to your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, there are a few things you can do:
- Look out for a kite mark or a rainbow sign: Some services have these on their website, to explicitly show that they’re aware of the unique needs of LGBT people. If you can’t see this, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the service is blind to the issues.
- Consider imagery and language: When looking on websites/ in brochures, see whether there’s any representation of LGBT people, as well as related concerns. Does the service use gender-neutral language, and does it offer the choice of using gender-neutral pronouns?
- Ask about awareness: Even if you see a kite mark or rainbow sign on a service’s website, ask if staff members have any LGBT awareness training, as well as how they support LGBT people. You may also like to ask about its diversity and inclusion policy - for example, does the service have a statement of commitment to LGBT equality in its policies, including a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination, bullying and harassment?
- Ask about discrimination: Have there been any instances of discrimination based on someone’s sexual or gender identity? How have these been dealt with? If there haven’t been any examples, how would it be tackled if it did arise? You could also ask whether the service has consulted with local LGBT groups on its inclusion work.
The golden rule is to make sure you make your needs clear to care providers – and that you feel comfortable the provider will deliver on these – before making decisions. And even if there aren’t immediate answers, it may be because the provider hasn’t fully considered them before, but you may prompt the care service to think about it and make adaptations.
Of course, these aren’t the only questions you should be asking care providers. Download our checklist of questions to ask when choosing a care home:
If you’re really struggling to find a care home that works for you, don’t give up. If possible, ask for advice and support from other LGBT people you know, or a local LGBT organisation in your area. Some local Age UK branches run LGBT support groups, and you may also want to get in touch with Stonewall Housing, an organisation that works towards ensuring LGBT people live in safe homes free from fear.
Arranging care in your own home
For more guidance on choosing appropriate care at home if you are LGBT, read our article on LGBT home care options.
Next of kin
Your next of kin is someone who you ask to be contacted in case of emergency. Some people assume this has to be a spouse or a blood relative, but it can be anyone you want – and health and care workers must respect whomever you choose.
Bear in mind that ‘next of kin’ carries little legal weight in the UK. It doesn’t mean that this person can automatically make decisions on your behalf, or that they’ll inherit your estate if you die.
If you want to give your next of kin the legal rights to make decisions for you and manage your financial affairs during your lifetime, you’ll need to appoint them a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
We look at the the pros and cons of moving into a care home, and what to consider before making the decision.
How to make a shortlist of suitable care homes, and uncover key information to ensure your needs are met.
How to find a home care option that works for you, and how the law protects you.