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New Report Highlights Issues Facing LGBT People Living with Dementia

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Care home staff need greater training to deal with residents who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transexual (LGBT) and living with dementia, a new report claims.

The ‘Over the Rainbow’ report says those people are often living in “double isolation” and need better support to ensure their identities are not lost or over-looked.

The report has been published by the University of Worcester’s influential Association for Dementia Studies, in partnership with the Birmingham LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Centre for Health and Wellbeing and PACE Health in London.

Professor Elizabeth Peel, Professor of Psychology and Social Change at the University of Worcester, who led the project, said: “Dementia affects everyone in society in one way or another. One in three of us will develop dementia by the end of our life and people live for many years with the challenges that dementia can bring.

“We know that LGBT people with dementia are especially marginalised communities, and that the issues impacting these people are under-represented in general dementia groups and charities.

“As part of this project we heard from carers, partners and friends of those living with dementia about the specific challenges they faced due to being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual.

“We heard how those who had overcome great difficulties in coming out, many at a time when being LGBT was classified as having a mental illness, were then experiencing the same problems all over again because of their dementia and they were not getting the support they needed.”

One participant in the project said: “one of the things that I’m quite concerned about…what will happen if I end up with dementia as a gay man and I go to a care setting and somebody doesn’t remind me of what my sexual identity is and I can’t remember or something happens then there’s an erosion of that? How will I then be treated because what I don’t want to do is go back in after coming out, which is quite a dramatic process.”

The report also raises issues around LGBT people with dementia who had not previously told family and friends of their sexuality and how the cognitive implications of dementia in revealing information can be difficult.

It also highlights particular issues for trans and intersex people: “Anecdotal evidence of denial of services has been identified, as well as forcibly preventing cross dressing and deliberate physical violence when people are revealed to be trans within a care home setting.”

The report calls for greater training for care home staff and a kite mark to be introduced identifying LGBT friendly services, where staff have received training. It also calls for the Quality Care Commission to consider auditing care homes on LGBT friendliness.

The project was funded by the Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Project (DEEP), which is led by Innovations in Dementia in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Comic Relief.

DEEP supports a growing network of groups of people with dementia who want to influence policy and practice’.

The full report can be viewed at http://dementiavoices.org.uk/2015/03/over-the-rainbow-report-about-lgbt-people-and-dementia/