If you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender, you may have 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 will 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 and care needs can make all the difference in leading a happy, healthy life.
We asked the LGBT rights charity Stonewall about the barriers that LGBT people may face when using health and care services. This is what it said:
“Lesbian, gay, bi 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 is on your side. It may count as unlawful discrimination if, for example, 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 with others.
First, think about what type of care would be best suited to your needs. Depending on your circumstances, this might be:
Once you’ve made a shortlist of feasible options in your area, you’ll then want to do some further research. 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:
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 any decisions. And even if there aren’t immediate answers, it may be because the provider hasn’t fully considered them before. By asking questions about how they can meet your needs you may prompt the care service to think about it and make some changes.
Of course, these aren’t the only questions you should be asking care providers. Check out our step-by-step guidance on how to choose a care home or agency:
If you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender, you may want a care service that specifically caters for LGBT people. Services such as this are becoming more popular, but they’re still limited and mainly found in London or other big cities.
We spoke with Alternative Care Services about the challenges that some LGBT people face when trying to arrange care. Watch the video below:
If you’re unable to access specific LGBT care services, or they don’t offer the right type of care for your needs, you should still be able to find a solution.
If you’re really struggling to find a care arrangement 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.
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 will inherit your estate if you die.