After 20 years of caring for families at Pueblo Community Health Center, Dr. Rona Knudsen embraces her role as InnovAge PACE’s Center Medical Director, helping vulnerable older adults in the community. <br />
Serving LGBTQ+ Seniors through PACE
July 07, 2021
Older lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer adults report feeling isolated and lonely, with higher rates of mental distress. They are twice as likely to be single and live alone, and four times less likely to have children, meaning they may have limited support systems. As caregivers, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be caring in isolation, which can exacerbate stress and lead to caregiver burnout.
According to the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, LGBT older adults are less likely than other older adults to reach out to senior centers, meal programs, and other vital services. “Many LGBT people have reported delaying or avoiding necessary medical care because they fear discrimination or mistreatment by healthcare staff,” it reports.
Providing culturally competent care is important for every healthcare organization. InnovAge has an internal council of staff dedicated to diversity, equality, and inclusion. One of the subgroups is focused on LGBTQ+ and gender. “Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ people continue to be met with discrimination and face health challenges that others don’t,” says group team member Justin Castonguay. “It’s important to provide LGBTQ+ participants with a safe space to age on their terms. Creating that safe space is the responsibility of all of us here at InnovAge.”
Justin shared his thoughts on how InnovAge (and other healthcare organizations) can best serve LGBTQ+ older adults:
- Self-reflect on our own biases, how they might cause harm to others, and then work to actively address them.
- Respect pronouns and identities and meet participants where they are.
- Provide healthcare services that effectively meet the care needs of our transgender clients.
- Provide a caring environment where our participants can live as their most authentic selves after spending so many years in the shadows.
*In some communities, such as Philadelphia, PACE is known as LIFE, or Living Independently for Elders.
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