Aged Care Services for GLBTI

One of the really great things about providing aged care services is that you are supporting one of the richest and most diverse mixes of people in our community. The aged and ageing population is made up of people with long and lively histories, with stories that have been at the core of who we all now are, and with identities that reflect the vibrant mix of people that make up today’s Australia.

While we are all getting much better at recognising and celebrating that diversity, especially in terms of the many cultures, languages and ethnicities that people bring to your services, one group that can often be forgotten in the mix are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people – or GLBTI people.

The terms can sometimes be hard to grasp, and you may feel they are changing all the time, and even people who themselves identify as members of the GLBTI communities may mean slightly different things when they use these words, or may describe themselves with other words altogether. While this can feel confusing, and you might be unsure about what terms to use and what they mean, it is actually a good thing because it reminds us that people all think and talk about themselves differently, even in relation to their sexuality and gender. When we grasp the value of those differences, and respect them, we have already begun to lay the right foundations to providing services in ways that will make people feel they belong.

The lives and experiences of GLBTI people will be as diverse as the people themselves. Today’s aged and ageing population has grown up through times of considerable change in relation to how issues of sexuality and gender are understood by communities, families, churches, the law and society more broadly. None of this, of course, has affected how many people are GLBTI – there have always been GLBTI people in all walks of life, and across all age groups – but it has affected how those people have thought about themselves, and how easy or difficult it has been for them to live their lives openly amongst their families, colleagues and friends.

So you can be sure that you will have GLBTI people in your service, but you cannot be sure how they will see or feel about this aspect of who they are. Some may have histories of being very open about their GLBTI identity; some may have told no one or very few people; some may just be beginning now to feel good about who they are and to feel like living their life more openly as a GLBTI person; some may still be struggling with all of these issues.

It is important that your service is able to be inclusive and supportive of your GLBTI clients, wherever they might be on this journey. Issues of sexuality and gender identity continue to be immensely important for people as they age – and sometimes even more so, as a decline in independence and loss of skills can intrude upon people’s sense of who they are and of what defines them.

There are many ways that your service can strengthen its inclusiveness of, and support to, your GLBTI clients. One is to consider undergoing Rainbow Tick accreditation. The Rainbow Tick was funded by the Victorian Government Department of Health and was developed by Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria together with Quality Improvement and Community Services Accreditation. It involves both self-assessment and external review, and is based on a set of standards that identify a range of areas and indicators for good practice in meeting the needs of GLBTI clients. A Rainbow Tick can be a great way of showing that you are a service that is committed to including GLBTI people in positive, progressive ways.

You might also like to check out an article about transgender issues in particular, which provides some simple tips about how to be more inclusive of, and how to avoid being offensive towards, your transgender clients. It’s only a start – but it’s a good start and a good way to keep mindful of some of the important issues. It can be surprising how much we don’t think about, when we are used to thinking only in conventional ways about gender and gender identity.

You can also engage the services of Agility to help you think through the issues, to strengthen your communications around GLBTI accessibility and relevance, and to talk to your staff about lived experience of GLBTI.  Agility can tailor its consultation and training services to the particular needs and focus of your organisation.

Remember, GLBTI people are already part of your client group. As GLBTI issues get more recognition in the broader community, and as GLBTI people and their friends and families become more attuned to their rights and their place in the rich diversity of modern society, you can expect not only that the demands on your services to be more GLBTI-friendly will increase, but so, too, will the pride you will have in adding The Rainbow Tick to your strengths.

GLBTI might seem like a lot of letters for a lot of words. But that’s only because it’s about a lot of people. And that’s why it’s important.