Going into the Care Closet?

Dr Cat Forward is Research Associate at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, King’s College London. (420 words)

As part of LGBTQ+ History Month, Lambeth Libraries hosted an event organised by Lambeth Links, talking about the issues surrounding the needs of LGBTQ+ individuals in later life. A panel chaired by Robbie de Santos (Stonewall, Director of Communications and External Affairs) shared their experiences of contact with the health and care system.

Ted Brown has been an active member of GLF (Gay Liberation Front) since 1970. He is currently campaigning against LGBTQI+ elder abuse following the experiences of his partner in residential care. He shared the experiences they had following Noel’s diagnosis of dementia and his subsequent interactions with health and social care services. Ted spoke of the advice they were given to ‘de-gay’ their house prior to care staff’s arrival to minimise any potential homophobia, and of the lack of staff awareness of issues relating to LGBTQ+ couples. He is continuing to raise awareness of issues such as these and spoke of wanting to work with local organisations to improve staff training and awareness.

Eileen Chubb is the founder of Compassion in Care charity and helpline. She reports that Compassion in Care have supported thousands of cases in the last year, 420 of which were transphobic or homophobic abuse in nature. She spoke of the consequences staff face when speaking out about abuse in care settings and of the need to support and protect whistle-blowers, putting the victims of abuse at the centre of any investigation.

Raga D’Silva is an author, entrepreneur, Chair of Trustees for the London LGBTQ+ Centre and a recent Tonic resident. Tonic is a not-for-profit organisation, providing LGBTQ+ affirmative housing. Raga spoke of the reasons for her and her partner’s decision to move into the housing unit and the value of LGBTQ+-specific services for people in later life. She spoke of her and her partner’s experiences of health services after Nicola had a stroke, and the difficulties they had in having their relationship recognised by staff.

When speaking of advice for people concerned about potential care issues, the panel spoke of ‘future-proofing’ themselves. Paperwork in place such as Lasting Power of Attorney can be helpful as can getting advice from organisations such as Opening Doors or Age UK. The event was a great opportunity to consider LGBTQ+ rights for older people and to consider what the next steps are to improve care in later life for those from the LGBTQ+ community.

Dr Cat Forward is Research Associate at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, King’s College London.

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