The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community is a group in society with a unique set of end-of-life concerns, but their needs remain largely unmet
End-of-life concerns — including everything from retirement to palliative care — cover a wide spectrum, from psychosocial issues, to those that are spiritual, legal, medical, and philosophical in nature. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community is a community with a unique set of end-of-life concerns.
Does aging and end-of-life mean back into the closet?
“What kind of training is now required for people who work with seniors, who can
no longer assume that they are all heterosexual?” — Macleans Magazine
As LGBTQ Canadians age and enter care facilities or end up in group living situations with people they’ve never met, questions are arising on two fronts: what happens if a long-out-of-the-closet individual is confronted with institutional homophobia; and how can staff, residents, and others involved in end-of-life care settings become prepared for increasing diversity among the elderly?
Marie Robertson, the community developer at Ottawa’s Senior Pride Network, “has heard all manner of harrowing anecdotes about LGBT seniors in both long-term care and home care, from an elderly gay couple who felt they had to hold hands in the bathroom so as not to attract negative attention from staff, to a trans woman who was brutally humiliated by staff who couldn’t contain their laughter when they realized upon changing her that she had a penis. But she maintains that most staff are receptive to the training, and are better caregivers for it. — “LGBT Baby Boomers find themselves fighting homophobia, again” (Maclean’s Magazine)
Marsha Wetzel faces harassment from residents of her retirement home because of her sexual orientation:
‘I hate to go out that door because I know what’s awaiting me.’ Photograph: Leslie VonPless/Lamda lega
Marsha Wetzel, a lesbian elder, moved into the Glen St. Andrew senior living community in Illinois, thankful to have found a home. But her experiences with other residents — and staff — eventually prompted a lawsuit:
In the suit, [Marsha Wetzel] accuses the housing center and its managers of failing to protect her from hostile residents who have insulted and verbally abused her. The suit says that she has been pushed, shoved and spit on, and that she was injured, including bruises on her arm, a bump on her head and a black eye.
One man who lives at Glen St. Andrew has been especially abusive, she said. “He started in on me — ‘I’m going to throw you down that elevator shaft,’” he threatened, using obscene language and calling her, according to her lawsuit, a “dyke” and a “slimy homo.” — “No Rest at Rest Home: Fighting Bias Against Gays and Lesbians,” New York Times
In England, The Guardian reports that “Manchester city council, which is planning the country’s first local authority retirement community with a majority of LGBT residents, reports that elderly gay people fear hostility and discrimination from those charged with taking care of them. So they often hide their sexuality.”
“Finally we’re respected by the government after all these years, and now, in care, I should put a hand over my mouth?” — Fraser Doke, Macleans (June 30, 2014)
Dignity, end-of-life, and concerns in the LGBTQ community
Robert Beringer (left), with members of the Academia Panel at the Simon Fraser University
conference The End of Life: Dying, Suicide, Death on November 3, 2016
Robert Beringer is a researcher and consultant pursuing doctoral research that focuses on LGBTQ aging in non-metropolitan (rural and small town) settings. Beringer also managed the development of an LGBT End-of-Life Conversations website. Robert spoke in Vancouver at a Simon Fraser University conference called The End of Life: Dying, Suicide, Death on November 3, 2016. His presentation focused on end-of-life and dignity in the LGBTQ community.
Dignity has been defined by the World Health Organization as the inherent and inalienable worth of all human beings. Using a model developed by Chochinov & colleagues (2002) that categorizes dignity into domains, Beringer presented examples from the media to illustrate how the needs of the aging LGBTQ community remain unmet in terms of dignity and end-of-life care.
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The End of Life: Dying, Suicide, Death
Dr. Samir Gandesha, director of SFU’s Institute for the Humanities,
moderated a panel discussion with academics as part of The End of Life: Dying, Suicide, Death
Simon Fraser University’s Institute for the Humanities hosted a conference in November 2016 called The End of Life: Dying, Suicide, Death. The conference was intended to provide space for pondering the complex and agonizing decisions regarding the end of life. Space for such conversations is especially needed given the 2015 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada declaring that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes upon Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the introduction of Bill C-14 which has resulted in debate about who, when and in what circumstances an individual may make such a decision.
Speakers included academics, graduate students and practitioners who spoke from their own particular perspectives: legal, ethical, medical, and spiritual or religious. The presentations also drew upon insights from literature and art, some of humanity’s most treasured resources.