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Nursing Home Abuse and LGBT Residents

When you become a nursing home resident, you expect fair, responsible treatment from staff, doctors, and other residents. But for LGBT residents, there is a constant fear of discrimination and abuse. As a result of the AIDS crisis, there were few elders in the LGBT community to provide guidance for younger generations, fight against discrimination in the nursing home industry, and form inclusive groups for older LGBT individuals. Many LGBT individuals who are in or beginning to enter nursing homes lack the necessary legal and social support to defend against discrimination and, ultimately, abuse.

Constant Fear of Discrimination

The struggle for LGBT rights has been a long and difficult path in the United States and while great strides have been made in recent decades, there are still consistent reports of hate crimes and discrimination. For older members of the community, aging often comes with added fears, as they find it harder to defend against abuse and lack the support of close family. Older LGBT individuals tend to be single, do not have children, and are more likely to be estranged from close family, making them feel isolated.

76% of LGBT adults ages 45 and up revealed that they worry about the lack of social support as they get older and 60% fear that they may be denied care based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a survey conducted by AARP. These individuals also lack LGBT-friendly senior resources in their communities, with only 10% having access to services in rural areas and 24% in medium-sized cities. In addition, 89% of LGBT individuals fear discrimination from nursing home staff and 81% fear discrimination from other residents, as reported by the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. This anxiety, compounded by reports of discrimination in senior living communities, such as the case of Wetzel v. Glen St. Andrew Living Community, LLC (Justia), makes it difficult for residents to speak out about hate crimes and abuse when it occurs.

Are These Fears Justified?

No abuse should occur in any nursing home or senior living facility, no matter what the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is. But the truth of the matter is that abuse does occur. In a survey of 853 instances of reported abuse against LGBT residents, it was revealed that:

  • 23% involved physical or verbal abuse from other residents;
  • 14% of those surveyed were physically or verbally abused by nursing home staff;
  • 20% were not allowed to enter a facility, were denied re-admission, or were discharged without warning;
  • 11% of spouses were denied medical power of attorney;
  • 11% were not allowed to see visitors;
  • 9% received transphobic verbal discrimination and staff refused to use their preferred name or pronouns;
  • 6% were denied basic care; and
  • 6% were denied medical treatment.

While this is a small sample size, it is important to remember that not all abuse is reported. In addition, there are roughly 9 million LGBT individuals in the United States, according to the Williams Institute of UCLA. Analysts theorize this number is actually higher, as there are still many members of the community who are closeted. Among those 9 million, roughly 23% are above the age of 65, and any number of these instances of nursing home abuse could apply to them.

Protecting the Rights of LGBT Nursing Home Residents in Albuquerque

If you have suffered nursing home abuse as an LGBT resident, it is very important to understand that you do have rights. All nursing home residents have the right to be free of abuse and harassment as outlined by The Consumer Voice, who also provide multiple resources for older LGBT residents. AARP has also provided a guide to finding LGBT-friendly senior living communities, which includes assistance from SAGE, the Human Rights Campaign, and the LGBT National Help Center, among others. Residents of Albuquerque and the rest of New Mexico may also contact the New Mexico Long-term Care Ombudsman to report abuse.

Every nursing home resident should live free of discrimination and receive fair treatment from their care givers. If you are a nursing home resident in New Mexico who has suffered abuse from staff, visitors, or other residents, do not hesitate to contact Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP at (903) 207-5526. We will advocate for your rights and hold all liable parties accountable for any unfair treatment or injuries.