Recent studies have found that LGBT older adults experience higher rates of disability as compared to their heterosexual peers. Further, the research shows that many LGBT people delay care out of fear of discrimination from health providers, which can have debilitating consequences. Many LGBT elders and/or people with disabilities are frequently forced to navigate inaccessible environments (or risk not accessing services) and many encounter stigmas and biases, unwelcoming environments and inadequate support related to their disabilities and their multiples identities. Thus, culturally competent caregivers and health care providers are of the utmost importance for disabled LGBT older adults; this includes staff in all long-term care settings, including facilities, and home and community based settings. Further, LGBT elders and people with disabilities deserve services and settings that are accessible and which maximize their full participation.
Compared to their heterosexual counterparts, lesbian, gay and bisexual older adults are at an elevated risk of disability and mental distress. Forty-one percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults age 50 and older have a disability; this means there are at least 1 million LGB older adults living with a disability, and this number could double by 2050. While the research is thin on transgender older adults, we assume that many transgender people, of all ages, also live with disabilities.
A recent national survey of more than 2,500 LGBT elders found that 44 percent of respondents reported that their physical activities are limited due to physical, mental or emotional challenges. Twenty percent of LGBT older adults are using special equipment such as a cane, wheelchair, special bed or special telephone due to a health condition.
According to the same study, when limited physical activities and use of special equipment are jointly considered, nearly half (47%) of LGBT older adults have a disability: 53% of lesbians, 51% of bisexual women, 41% of gay men and 54% of bisexual men. Additionally, transgender older adults are at a heightened risk of both disability and depression; 62 percent of transgender older adults have a disability.
Caregivers experience profound difficulties and challenges with regard to limited awareness of resources and services, peer support and health consequences related to providing care; this means that the support network for elders and people with disabilities needs strengthening. Research has found increased rates of symptoms of depression and anxiety, along with increases in blood pressure, in people who are providing care for LGBT elders and LGBT people with disabilities.
To learn more about SAGE's work on disability issues, please contact Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at 212-741-2247 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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