“If they’re going to assisted living, the facilities want seniors to bring photos and other objects that make this place feel like their new home,” said Krinsky. “But what if those pictures are of them in drag? Can they still be comfortable in this facility?”
There’s also concern about their straight peers, many of whom may also have a negative reaction.
Griffith moved to Linden Ponds retirement community in Hingham in 2007.
She has no partner and no immediate family to be an emergency contact. Because there are others like her, standard questions by health care providers should be worded differently for LGBT seniors, according to the training provided by The Aging Project. Seniors should be asked about their support system rather than children, or about their partner rather than spouse.
Burton, of MassEquality, said she thinks the voluntary directive issued by the governor is a great first step, but that it may not be enough to motivate some elder-care providers to take advantage of the available training because it is voluntary.
Still, caregivers aren’t the only ones who need to change. Not only do providers face the challenge of developing trust with LGBT seniors, but many seniors who have hidden their sexual orientation from formal caregivers must learn to overcome their fear.
“Social programs within the elder agencies are a way to get them integrated with other similar folks and feel comfortable connecting with providers,” said Krinsky.
The world has changed since she came of age, Griffith reminded herself recently. Her confident tone seemed to convey the importance of seniors being open with their health care providers.
“Somewhere in my 50s and 60s I was trying to find my way,” she said. “I don’t know quite what it is that should frighten us now.”
Lara Salahi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.