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A new plan of action: inside the improvements for LGBTI seniors

Late last month the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt announced new steps to improve aged care for LGBTI seniors.

The Aged Care Diversity Action Plan for senior LGBTI Australians is aimed at catering to the needs of the one in 10 older adults who have diverse sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex characteristics.

This figure is seen as conservative. Studies show the number of people identifying as sexually diverse is on the rise.

As of the 2016 census, some 1260 people identified as either trans, intersex or non-binary – a figure the ABS admitted “is a minimum estimate and is expected to have been substantially under-reported”.

LGBTI aged care residents face a number of unique challenges. Discrimination is the big fear but a loss of sexual identity can also be experienced.

Pauline Crameri, co-ordinator of Val’s LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care, said: “Many older LGBTI people are really fearful of going into residential aged care.”

In many instances elderly LGBTI residents are without a support structure or somebody to advocate on their behalf.

“We know that LGBTI people, from the research, have a higher need for a range of support services as they age, as they don’t have the informal supports in place,” she said.

Sam Edmonds, the national project manager at Silver Rainbow – part of the national LGBTI Health Alliance – was involved in developing the new framework. The Aged Care Sector Committee Diversity Sub Group, of which the LGBTI Health Alliance is a member, also wrote to the royal commission to voice concerns on behalf of the LGBTI community.

“We recommended consideration of a confidential, culturally safe phone line that people could call to provide their stories,” she told Aged Care Insite.

“In addition it will be essential to have a counselling or other support service in place to support LGBTI peoples, not only those who tell their stories, but also those who have had negative experiences and do not feel confident in telling their story but might re-experience the trauma of the experience from being exposed to discussions and media around the royal commission.”

Aged Care Insite spoke with Crameri about the challenges and future improvements needed to cater to the LGBTI community in aged care.

We also spoke with Edmonds to discuss the government’s new action plan.

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