LGBT: Older Adult Aging And The Urgent Need For Preparation


Welcome to our "Snuggle Sunday" Q & A series, where our blog authors respond to frequently asked questions and offer advice.
Editor’s Note:  To date, we have not centered any articles around comments or letters received from our customers/subscribers.  We receive a lot of feedback on Sundays compared to the rest of the week and we felt compelled to respond to this particular letter sent to us via snail mail. 
We are keeping his name and address anonymous for privacy concerns.

 

Dear Le Snuggle:

We know that this topic is not your usual Sunday content. We enjoy your informative articles and are happy customers. Surprised? Here is our story. All advice would be appreciated.

Thank you for reaching out and, for being a loyal customer and subscriber. Very little surprises me at this point. Le Snuggle serving more than one purpose was known, but not advertised, since Le Snuggle was designed for a very specific purpose (vaginal laxity). Your story is heartbreaking for many reasons. Research for this article was enlightening and truly pointed out a huge problem in our society that is only expected to worsen as our Baby Boomers continue to age.

I am married to my soulmate. We have been together over 35 years, but only married for 6 years due to the state that we reside in. I am in a same-sex marriage. It has not always been easy, but we are extremely happy. Honesty and communication is the foundation of our happy marriage.

We have experienced the stigma, discrimination and disparities associated with medical and legal decisions prevalent in today’s society. I could go on and on, but I am reaching out about our best friend who is 74 and starting to decline.

He wants us to handle his decisions regarding future care as well as his estate when it becomes necessary.

He has three grown children that he is estranged from for many years. He has worked his entire life to live well, provide for himself, and save for the future. He is single and does not have any legal documentation in place that would allow us to handle things for him should it become necessary.

We have our support network of friends that we consider family, but we also know that without extensive legal documents in place, our friend’s wishes mean nothing. We have too many friends that their partners were not even allowed to visit in the hospital or in rehabilitation/long term care facilities. A national law was put in place under President Obama to prevent this, but discrimination still exists in our circles. More importantly, our friend has not disclosed his relationship status to his treating physicians, believing he will be discriminated against.

Note: There is mounting pressure on physician offices to change their standard paperwork for all patients. In most cases, the only options are male/female and relationship status that includes single, married, divorced. Categories should be added to allow enough information for physicians to ask specific questions and address health issues that may be pertinent from comprehensive patient information.

This is just one instance that we are personally involved with. But in our world, this is a systemic problem that creates havoc. None of us know when something is going to happen that changes our lives in an instant. We want to help our friend but would like to know what advice you have.

Overcoming the disparities and legal issues LGBT aging adults are experiencing needs to be addressed in ALL medical, housing and care facilities nationwide. It is slowly happening, but not fast enough for our aging population. 

Single LGBT adults have a higher likelihood of feeling isolated, experiencing depression and discrimination over heterosexual individuals. These conditions have adverse consequences to overall health and wellness. Sexual health is an equally important issue that needs to be addressed and included in our wellness examinations. Nondisclosure to our physicians can be harmful. For example, long term hormone therapy needs, birth control, ED treatment for prostate cancer survivors, mammograms and gynecological examinations are but a few critical issues that require consistent attention.

Having resources to assist can improve mental and physical health. 

Because of their age, chances are good they have experienced the disparities in healthcare, insurance, and expectation of privacy. Consequently, LGBT older adults will shy away from vital communication with health care providers. This impacts the care received.  

Most physicians do not address sexuality in older adults. Not just LGBT, but everyone. They believe older adults are not interested in sex, much less having it! 

Your friend needs to consult an attorney immediately. A few documents need to be in place to ensure your participation. These documents are commonly referred to as Advance Directives. It is possible that you may be referred to more than one attorney to accomplish everything your friend requires. Following is a starting list of documents you may need:

  • Will
  • Living Will
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • Hospital visitation directive

Should long term care be necessary, has your friend made provisions?

Also, since your friend wants you to handle his estate, retirement, etc., you may require a tax attorney familiar with the specific laws of your state to assist you.

A lot of decisions need to be made, but your friend needs to write down all of his wishes, including funeral/burial decisions.

There are LGBTQ certified businesses AND long term care facilities. You will need to do your homework to find the right situation. These businesses are trained to understand the unique needs of LGBTQ seniors.

Once decisions are made and documents signed and in place, make sure copies are distributed among your “family of choice”, as well as legally filed to avoid messy situations down the road.

You and your spouse are incredible people to be willing to take on the magnitude of being caregiver for your friend. Very admirable. Also keep in mind, that handling assets PRIOR to your friend needing care, will ensure that you will have the means in order to provide care for your friend without the government taking everything that he has worked so hard for. Again, do your homework and make sure you know all of the ins and outs of assuming this responsibility.

Remember, if you do not have an attorney and need a referral, you can contact the American Bar Association.

The challenges LGBT seniors experience are real. We as a community need to do better to give LGBT people access to quality care without being stigmatized.

This includes testing for STI’s and HIV. According to the CDC

“Older adults infected years ago are getting tested for the first time. This is likely due to the stigma associated with HIV tests."

Everyone is entitled to be who they are, receive quality care and most importantly, be treated with respect.

See below for links to our previously published articles on communicating with our physicians and, STD’s in seniors: