Be An Informed Consumer of Aging Services

By Cathy Croghan

Welcoming and respectful services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) older adults can go unnoticed and unused simply because of fear or uncertainty. A 2012 survey of Twin Cities GLBT older adults showed fewer than one in five believed they would receive sensitive services if a provider knew they were a member of the GLBT community.

Training to Serve (www.trainingtoserve.org) developed the 2014 Twin Cities Metro LGBT Aging Resource Guide to help an older adult, a family member or friend, or a professional navigate the system and find GLBT-welcoming services. The Resource Guide has more than 28 service provider categories, including adult day services, community activities, help at home, housing, legal assistance, transportation, and more. Providers listed in the guide completed a survey attesting to the inclusiveness of their services. ­The Guide is not meant to endorse or guarantee the sensitivity of any provider. But it is a first step in helping the GLBT community become more comfortable and informed consumers of aging services.

Part of being an informed consumer is knowing the right questions to ask and what to look for when interviewing a potential service provider for specific needs. The Resource Guide makes the following suggestions:

Ten questions to ask service providers:

  1. Do you include GLBT (sexual orientation and gender identity) in non-discrimination policies?
  2. What is your experience working with GLBT older adults or families?
  3. I wish for my partner and/or friends to be part of my support team. How will you work with them and keep them informed?
  4. Does your residential or nursing facility allow same-sex and/or non-married couples to live together? Do you help place transgender older adults with roommates?
  5. What training do you provide your staff on GLBT issues?
  6. Do you maintain a list of GLBT-friendly providers to whom you refer?
  7. How will you maintain client confidentiality?
  8. What is your grievance policy for handling complaints from clients?
  9. Are you willing to work with my other providers?
  10. Do you belong to or support GLBT organizations?

Five things to look for when visiting a service provider:

  1. Rainbow flag or other GLBT-welcoming artwork
  2. GLBT magazines in the waiting room
  3. GLBT couples in brochures or other marketing materials
  4. Inclusive, welcoming or affirming statement displayed
  5. Advertisements in GLBT magazines

The Resource Guide is available free of charge thanks to financial support from PFund Foundation, Greater Twin Cities United Way, and Training to Serve donors. Find it online at www.trainingtoserve.org/guide or pick up a copy at Quatrefoil Library on East Lake Street in Minneapolis (www.qlibrary.org).

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