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Caregiving in the LGBT Community
posted 04.25.2012

Continue reading the LGBT Caregiving Blog Series Presented by ASA's LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN):

Finding Pride in Caring: LGBT Caregivers Answer the Call from the Community
By Holly Deni

Sharing Care an Energizing Experience
By Nancy Bereano

Two Relationships in One
By Chris MacLellan

Transcending Business as Usual
By Paul R. Blom

Complications of Transgender Caregiving
By Julie Ellingson

By Scott French

Caregiving takes many forms. While we might think of caregivers as paid aides, in reality, the majority of caregiving in the United States is provided by informal caregivers—usually a spouse or child. In the LGBT community, many older adults do not have the same familial supports.

When compared to their heterosexual counterparts, LGBT older adults are:

  • Twice as likely to age as a single person
  • Twice as likely to live alone
  • Three to four times less likely to have children to support them

While LGBT older adults may not have the same biological family support as their heterosexual counterparts, many have developed “families of choice”—important social networks of partners, friends, ex-partners, neighbors and others.

What’s Different about LGBT Caregiving?

There are more similarities between LGBT and non-LGBT caregivers than differences—all caregivers provide critically needed support and assistance to older adults to help them age in their communities. However, LGBT caregivers may have limited access to LGBT-affirming services, and their families of choice may not always be recognized under the law. It is crucial that LGBT caregivers are aware of local services, as well as local and statewide laws and regulations to ensure that they and their loved ones are protected. Keeping track of this information while also supporting a loved one can take its toll.

Since 2004, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) has offered caregiver support services and programs to New York City’s LGBT community through our Partners in Caring Program, supported by New York City’s Department for the Aging. The Partners in Caring Program has served more than 3,000 caregivers since its inception by providing culturally competent counseling, case management, educational and information services.

In 2009, SAGE launched SAGECAP (Caring and Preparing) with support from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. SAGECAP provides LGBT caregivers with peer-to-peer support groups, educational seminars and planning services to ensure LGBT caregivers today are prepared for their own aging future. Together with Partners in Caring, SAGECAP ensures that LGBT caregivers and care recipients receive the LGBT-affirming support and resources they need.

Unfortunately, LGBT caregiver support services are not widespread across the country. In recognition of this, SAGE and the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging created an online LGBT Caregiver Resource Center to provide caregivers and service providers access to tools and information that address their unique needs (www.lgbtagingcenter.org/resources). On the site caregivers can learn about the legal documents every LGBT older adult should have, and review tips on finding LGBT-affirming services. Our most recent resource, created in partnership with the United Hospital Fund’s Next Steps in Care Program is  A Guide to LGBT Caregiving. The website also offers access to the latest research and policy reports on caregiving and a host of other issues of concern to LGBT elders.

To further support LGBT caregivers across the country, SAGECAP (Caring and Preparing) has recently launched a national LGBT caregiver telephone support group. The group provides a safe and nurturing space for caregivers in the LGBT community to build relationships, share information and resources, vent frustrations and gain emotional support. Whether caregivers are caring for a parent, partner or friend, the support group provides LGBT-affirming service and support to combat caregiver isolation. For more information on this group, contact SAGECAP at caregiving@sageusa.org.

Visit the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging today to access our articles, publications and other information designed to support LGBT caregivers. For those interested in learning more about the issues LGBT caregivers face, watch the video LGBT Older Adults and Caregiving: Unique Needs.


Scott French is Program Manager for SAGECAP (Caring and Preparing). 

This article was brought you by the editorial board of ASA’s LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN).

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