Nurses the ‘Front Line’ of Caring for LGBT Elders

From UAB news:

More than 2 million older adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and they have specific physical and mental health needs of which nurses need to be aware, according to a recent publication in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.

“Nurses are in a prominent position to create health care environments that will meet the needs of this often misunderstood group of people,” said Rita Jablonski, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing and lead author of the paper. “Nurses are the front line for care, and they can directly impact the quality of care older LGBT adults experience.”


Jablonski and co-authors recommend some practices that nurses can take to improve the quality of care they give to LGBT patients, as well as help them feel more at ease.

Realize that they already have LGBT patients or residents. “Given lifetime experiences of negativity at best and violence at worst, older LGBT adults may not openly share their identity with health care providers,” Jablonski said. “Older LGBT adults may have prior life experiences, including having been married or having children, that cause nurses to assume heterosexuality. Don’t make that mistake.”

Change the way information is gathered from the patient. Questions about sexual orientation and gender identity should be routinely asked of all patients or residents. Given the discrimination faced by older LGBT adults, the nurse must preface this information with why the questions are being asked, Jablonski says. The best way to do this is for the nurse to state, “To provide the best and most sensitive care for all of our patients, we ask questions that may seem different.”

Ask questions about sexual orientation and gender identity separately. “On forms, a blank line can be included after the ‘male’ and ‘female’ choices to allow older adults to label their own gender,” Jablonski said. “Another option is to ask, ‘What is your gender?’ and leave a blank line to allow for an individual to complete the question as he or she believes appropriate.”

Read the full article

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