GLBTI seniors advocates have hit out at a lack of reference to sexual orientation and gender identity in new draft Standards for Residential Aged Care being developed by the Department of Health and Ageing.
Although the department is seeking feedback on the draft guidelines, researchers and GLBTI advocates say neglecting to mention sexual orientation and gender identity means GLBTI seniors will be overlooked.
Australian Coalition for Equality (ACE) spokesman Corey Irlam said the lack of inclusion of sexuality and gender identity is “appalling”.
“With $400,000 going to ACON for [an aged care] training program, over 30 positions going to a Queensland-based community organisation for GLBT-specific at-home packages and various progress made since 2008 in the Department [of Health and Ageing], it’s just appalling that such an oversight could occur,” he told the Star Observer.
“Hopefully, through this consultation process, and with everybody in community organisations and individuals … picking up that issues of sexual orientation need to be included in the statement of intent, this will change.”
Irlam said ACE would put in a submission to the department calling for greater GLBTI inclusion.
The draft guidelines’ statement of intent currently says the aged care accreditation standards are designed to promote “high quality of care and quality of life for each resident … regardless of race, culture, language, gender, social or religious choices”.
Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria researcher Catherine Barrett said if “culture” does refer to sexuality and gender identity it needs to be stated.
“One of the challenges in residential aged care is these things really need to be spelled out to be identified and for people to respond to them,” Barrett told the Star Observer.
“In my experience there has been a lot of education in aged-care services to try and get people to recognise that culture is not just about ethnicity.
“One of the real challenges … is that older people are not recognised as being sexual, so they’re not recognised as being sexually diverse.”
Barrett said there is still “enormous fear” among older GLBTI people that they will be forced back into the closet when dealing with aged-care services.
Barrett’s 2008 My People report — which surveyed GLBTI people in residential care — found many GLBTI seniors felt they couldn’t be open about their sexuality. In some cases, aged-care staff had refused physical contact with gay men in the mistaken belief they had HIV/AIDS.
“GLBTI people [using] home and community services might hide who they are when they have a worker come in for an hour each day, but for people who are in residential aged care, nursing homes and hostels, they’re there permanently,” Barrett said.
“We need to really educate people who work in residential aged care that some older people are GLBTI.”
The Star Observer has sought a definition of “culture” from the Department of Health and Ageing.