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LGBT: making the best care decisions for you

How to find care that works for you if you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender. If you’re worried about being treated differently, know that the law is on your side
Which?Editorial team

Using health and care services – LGBT concerns

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.

Addressing discrimination in health and care

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 Equality Act 2010 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.

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.

Choosing a care provider if you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender

First, think about what type of care would be best suited to your needs. Depending on your circumstances, this might be:

Click on the links above for more information about these different options, or read our quick guide on how to choose the right care in later life

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:

  • 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 or 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 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:

Are there care services specifically for LGBT people?

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.

For example, there are plans to build retirement homes for LGBT people in London and Manchester. Plus, the first LGBTQI+ home care service – Alternative Care Services – launched in 2018, serving London.

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.

More support for older LGBT people

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.

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 that LGBT people live in safe homes free from fear.

Stonewall also has a list of other groups who can provide support for older LGBT people.

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 will 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).

Use Which? Wills to find the information you need, from writing your will to setting up your Power of Attorney. Which? is here to help you make important decisions for your future.