Jul 182012
Care staff find homophobic elderly hard to deal with

Aged care staff working with older gays and lesbians find it challenging to deal with homophobic attitudes and behaviour from other aged care residents, researchers have found.

The Auckland University study involved interviews with 47 staff at seven care facilities in the Auckland region about their views and experiences of caring for older gays and lesbians.

The study, the first of its kind in New Zealand, follows Australian research that found lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and intersex residents experienced high levels of unmet needs and fears of discrimination.

“The project is a first for New Zealand and will help to raise awareness of the unique needs of people from sexual minorities as they age,” Auckland University nursing researcher Gary Bellamy said.

Staff in the study found it challenging to deal with homophobic attitudes and behaviour from other aged care residents, but said high levels of cognitive impairment among some residents was a mitigating factor.

They said it was important to develop trusting relationships with older gays and lesbians, who had grown up at a time when homosexuality was criminalised and lesbianism was vilified.

Personal privacy was also an consideration, with staff acknowledging the importance of being able to help ensure personal privacy, along with partner involvement in care.

Aged care staff said knowing family members, friends and colleagues who identified as lesbian or gay helped in their ability to empathise with those residents.

They also felt community organisations that advocated on behalf of the older sexual minorities were a valuable resource to draw on.

The findings are being used to develop practice guidelines for staff working in aged care facilities.

The project will be followed a study of the views and experiences of older gay, bisexual and lesbian people and their partners regarding residential aged care.

The study, conducted with help from Massey University and health and social care organisations, was funded by the Rule Foundation, a charitable trust.

Matthew Backhouse