Being an aging gay man with a little less drive and energy (I am turning 50 this year) I am starting to wonder what my golden years may look like and I am thinking that I am getting a late start in the planning!
As much as we all want to believe that ‘it will never happen to me’, there is a good possibility that you and I may, at some point, need long term care.
Many of us that have been gay warriors through the years (more than a simple survivor of discrimination and abuse) may face more battles as we become more vulnerable then we have ever been before.
Despite all the progress and the many battles won, we could again be forced to experience homophobia, heterosexism, and anti-gay violence in our elder years when we need compassion and care the most.
When the needs of older gay men can no longer be met by partners, friends, and relatives, we may be forced to enter traditional community-based and institutional long-term care (LTC) services where there are unrecognized caregiving needs specific to us as gay men, and we may face serious homophobia and heterosexist attitudes by agency staff in LTC facilities that can compromise our quality of care.
Many gay men have been forced to go back into the closet after a lifetime of pushing their way out, just to obtain the same quality of care as heterosexuals. I cannot image the pain of being forced back into the closet in my final years.
This is a topic for all gay men, regardless of our marital stats because even when we are married, as older adults we are likely to experience monetary inequality and disparity simply because of unequal coverage for same-sex couples under policies regulating Social Security and private pension plans. These inequalities and disparities exists regardless of our local laws covering gay marriage.
Additionally, with gay marriage being a local (and limited) right, and with the possibility of losing what rights we do have as we lose our ability to communicate and/or be heard, we may be separated from our life partner when we need the love and support they can offer, a devastating final chapter to a love story.
There has been little information available about the opinions and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults in long-term care settings, but this report: LGBT Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities; Stories from the Field provides a great deal of information and resources.
It is not an easy topic, but one we all must face, and the sooner the better, because much of the solution involves money, money we may desperately need in our final years that we only have access to while were young.
We all need to be prepared, hopefully the solution will come fast (and in our sleep) but, that is not a guarantee…
Here are a few resources for those concerned: