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A new study by Southern Cross University will help the aged care sector in making a best-practice inclusive model.

New study to make aged care better for LGBTQ+

A new study will investigate how Australia's aged care sector can enhance service delivery to cover a wider demographic of gender and sexual diversity.

Led by Southern Cross University professor Mark Hughes, the research project is set to break "new ground" by developing a best-practice inclusive model.

Funded by the Australian Government, the five-year study will collaborate with four other major Australian universities, residential aged care providers, peak aged care bodies and LGBTQ+ organisations, and the LGBTQ+ community.

Professor Hughes said many aged care providers were keen to improve their service delivery following reports of discrimination and poor service in the Royal Commission.

"This generation of LGBTQ+ older people has experienced prejudice and considerable hardship over many decades – not least during the HIV/AIDS crisis – and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity when accessing aged care services," he said.

"The fact that many LGBTQ+ people don’t have adult children to support them in older age is also a concern.

"Many have close friends who take on that role, but the current residential aged care system does not sufficiently support LGBTQ+ people to stay connected to their friends and communities."

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2016, around 4,800 people aged 65 and over lived in same-sex relationships.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) resource reports that older LGBTQ+ people often feel isolated and overlooked within the aged care sector and the broader community.

Older LGBTQ+ people have often faced violence, stigma, and discrimination, which may lead to reluctance to reveal their identities or share personal stories within aged care services.

The lack of data collected specifically about LGBTQ+ residents in aged care facilities is also a problem and has been criticised for not being inclusive, as it can prevent personalised care from happening.

Other factors in the study that will be assessed include the impacts of casualisation of the aged care workforce, the high number of aged care staff who are migrants from non-English-speaking backgrounds, and faith-based organisations operating a large proportion of residential aged care facilities.

"Working collaboratively with faith-based service providers will be key to the success of this research," Professor Hughes said.

"This is how we’ll build sector support and knowledge into the inclusive aged care model, and the guidelines and resources for all organisations to use in the future.

"It’s a much-needed project that will create impactful change for our increasingly ageing and diverse population, and I’m honoured to be part of it."

The team will engage with LGBTQ+ people and other stakeholders to co-design a model for inclusive care within residential aged care facilities, and guidelines and resources to support service providers in putting that model into practice.

This will then be trialled in up to 19 residential aged care facilities within Queensland and Western Australia.

The findings from the trial will be evaluated to further refine the model before it is distributed nationally.

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