Celebrating with pride: Addressing the healthcare needs of older LGBTQ+ adults

Celebrating with pride: Addressing the healthcare needs of older LGBTQ+ adults

This June marks the 55th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the 25th anniversary of the first Pride Month. The 20-year-olds who participated in the nation’s first Pride parades – marches held in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to fight against unfair laws and treatment – are now over 65 years old today. 

While Pride Month celebrates those who worked to achieve equal justice and opportunity, it’s also a time to shine a light on the unique healthcare challenges faced by the aging lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (#LGBTQ+) community – a rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population. Today, there’s an estimated 2.7 million adults aged 50+ who identify as LGBTQ+ and this number is expected to exceed five million by 2060

Despite progress in recent years, LGBTQ+ adults are at a high risk for poor health and social outcomes due to unique challenges that impact their health and well-being as they age – which impacts their ability to receive the compassionate, competent, and inclusive care they deserve. Let’s explore why this population is at risk and learn how to better address their needs. 

The legacy of marginalization

Older LGBTQ+ adults have worse health outcomes than their heterosexual peers. Many came of age in a time when their identities were criminalized, stigmatized, and viewed as abnormal. They often faced severe repercussions, including family rejection, job loss, and lack of legal protection. 

Older LGBTQ+ adults often experience higher rates of mental health conditions (including depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse), chronic conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS) and high rates of loneliness and isolation. 

Barriers to quality healthcare

Longstanding discrimination in the healthcare system has negative impacts on the health of LGBTQ+ adults 65 and older. Despite societal advances, older LGBTQ+ adults face significant barriers to accessing quality healthcare. Lifelong discrimination has led to economic hardship for many, making it difficult for them to afford necessary healthcare services and medications.

More than 60% of LGBTQ+ adults over the age of 65 report that they fear being refused care, facing harassment, or having to conceal their identity due to provider bias and lack of training. This can result in delayed diagnoses and treatment, exacerbating health issues. Further, many healthcare providers lack the training to understand and address the specific needs of LGBTQ+ patients, leading to inadequate or inappropriate care.

Steps toward inclusive and affirmative care

Providing high-quality care for older LGBTQ+ adults requires a multifaceted approach. At Patina, we provide patient-centric care in an age-friendly and inclusive environment, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or religion. Our team takes time to understand your goals, values and preferences to deliver comprehensive, whole-person care that addresses your unique medical, emotional and social needs.

Here are some ways Patina and others in the healthcare field can be more inclusive and supportive for the community:

  • Educate healthcare providers
    Comprehensive training on LGBTQ+ issues for healthcare professionals is essential. This includes understanding the unique health risks and histories of LGBTQ+ patients, using inclusive language, and recognizing the impact of historical and ongoing trauma.

  • Create welcoming environments
    Healthcare organizations should adopt inclusive policies and practices. Visible signs of LGBTQ+ inclusion, such as non-discrimination statements and LGBTQ-friendly materials, can help create a welcoming atmosphere.

  • Address mental health needs
    Integrating mental health services into primary care is crucial. Providers should be trained to recognize and address the unique mental health challenges of older LGBTQ+ adults. Support groups and community programs can also play a vital role in reducing isolation and fostering a sense of belonging.

  • Improve access to care
    Advocacy for policies that ensure affordable healthcare access for LGBTQ+ seniors is vital. This includes protecting LGBTQ+ rights and ensuring coverage for necessary treatments and medications.

 

Celebrating progress and continuing the fight

As we celebrate Pride Month, let’s commit to ensuring that our healthcare system evolves to meet the diverse needs of all individuals, including older LGBTQ+ adults. By promoting inclusive, affirmative care, we can improve the health and well-being of this often-overlooked group and create a more just and equitable society for everyone.

Happy Pride Month!