Aged care workers will be encouraged to “park” their views on homosexuality during the next week to provide a more inclusive service as almost half of LGBTI Australians live alone and potentially need help as they get older.

For Dementia Awareness Week, Alzheimer’s Australia and Dementia, Lesbians and Gay Men author Heather Birch will be presenting workshops in Frankston and Cheltenham.

The workshops are for aged care workers to learn about LGBTI people living with dementia who may be living at home, residential care or in hospital.

In 2009, Birch published her research about LGBTI people with dementia and found 46 percent of LGBTI people in Australia lived alone compared to just 23 percent of the general population.

“What I want [participants] to do is see that our needs are acknowledged and understood based on good information, understanding about our past lived experiences and our current identities, relationships and wishes,” she told the Star Observer.

Older LGBTI people have spent much of their lives potentially rejected by society and have since led very private lives, Birch said.

“As you age, what happens is suddenly your private life becomes more public,” she said.

“You start to have people you don’t necessarily know coming into your home and providing services and there are a whole lot of issues around safety and trust, and being able to be yourself that come into question.”

Birch said she encouraged staff to “park” their views while working with LGBTI people so workers would not be forced to abandon their values but still provide an inclusive service.

Alzheimer’s Australia Victorian diversity officer Claire Naffah said the aged care community could learn how to provide person-centred care to LGBTI people living with dementia.

Dementia Awareness Week runs from September 21-28.

INFO: www.fightdementia.org.au

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