Back in the closet – LGBT people in England’s care homes

Many older lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people feel unable to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to staff, according to a new survey of care home staff.

A common response from care home staff was ‘we don’t actually have any’, which suggests that many LGBT people feel unable to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The survey canvassed the views of 189 care home staff in England and carried out by researchers from the Universities of Nottingham and Manchester. The sample was predominantly middle-aged, female, white British and heterosexual.

Good will from care home staff

Although two-thirds of respondents said there was not a single resident who was openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, 82 per cent said they would not feel embarrassed to discuss elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans issues.

But the results show – despite the good will of care home staff – there is a great deal that care homes can do to improve the environment for LGBT people.

Dr Kathryn Almack, Senior Research Fellow at The University of Nottingham’s Sue Ryder Care Centre, said: “It was common to hear the phrase ‘I/we treat everyone the same’. While well-intentioned, ironically, this reinforces rather than prevents or tackles inequality. Encouraging an LGBT-friendly atmosphere needs to be higher on the agenda.

“All residents should have the option and opportunity to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity but never feel forced to disclose information.”

Improved LGBT-specific training

Almost 80 per cent of respondents said that they had never been provided with any training in LGBT issues at their current work place. Similarly, only nine per cent of respondents said their care home made LGBT-specific literature available.

Dr Almack said: “The goodwill of individual staff needs converting into a collective resource and translating into strategically informed practice.”

The University of Manchester’s Dr Paul Simpson believes it is important that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are able to be open about their sexuality or gender identity.

He said: “Most respondents reported ‘we don’t have any LGB and T people at the moment’ – but that can’t be true. We’re not critical of care homes, as attitudes appear positive, but we do feel many may simply not be able to recognise people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. That, unintentionally, is likely to force residents back into the closet and deny a lifetime of experience.

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