Should we go back into the closet? That was the question.

Many mature-age gay men are discussing aged care, and in particular, the question of the quality of life we, as gay men, could expect as we moved nearer to death. Even though we were now living openly gay lives, several had lived through a great deal of homophobia. And those bad feelings had never really gone away.

As we set up legal documentation like an Advance Care Directive for our journey into a medical care facility, we are faced with the fear that maybe as gay men we should not declare our true sexuality. We fear what would happen to us should we become incapacitated to a point where strangers have to look after us and make medical decisions on our behalf. Could homophobic staff or residents make us more vulnerable?

I suggest that we cannot rule out the occasional bad apple working in any institution, but the education of medical and care staff about cultural, ethnic, and alternative lifestyles has been happening for many years, making the likelihood of any such fears unfounded.

But we do need legal guarantees including, an Advance Care Directive.

Not only does it contain a brief medical history, but also lists your values – your religious beliefs, ethnic and cultural requirements, whether you want to be resuscitated, nursing home and palliative care expectations, your attitude to Voluntary Assisted Dying, do you want Last Rites administered, etc.

Compiling your document is a moment to re-evaluate who you are and what you expect from the remainder of your life. It’s a time to be precise, adamant, and clear about how you see yourself. After a signature from your doctor, it becomes a legal document about you and what you expect others to do for you when you are unable to do it for yourself.

It’s free to organise, it gives you security and peace of mind, and you also alleviate trauma about decision-making from the shoulders of your loved ones and carers. Everyone knows what you want and can therefore act accordingly, as they’re legally bound to support your written requirements.

Have you got your Advance Care Directive in place? If you haven’t, then you should – and soon. It’s not just because of ageing and declining health – it can also be about incapacitating accidents. 

For a free download, visit Dying With Dignity or your local state Health Department website.

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