We have reached a point in time when a large number of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bi, trans (LGBT), or another sexual minority, are reaching advanced ages of 60+ years-old. Like the rest of the population, a portion of this group will develop a dementia-related disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease. The prospect of receiving a diagnosis and undergoing treatment for dementia can be intimidating for anyone, but members of the LGBT community have more concerns than most.
Receiving Healthcare as a Sexual Minority
Minorities of all types face more challenges than others in many aspects of daily life. Sexual minorities, like those included in the LGBT community, are no exception. Recent research has provided the first insights into how these groups are disadvantaged when it comes to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. The authors of this study discuss several key factors that contribute to the problem:
A serious concern within the LGBT community is access to quality healthcare. Discrimination against sexual minorities is still unfortunately rampant, and it impacts all of the systems in which they participate. On an official level, the problem can be found in the inequality of rights allotted to same-sex couples and people undergoing sexual transitions, among other issues. These barriers can impede access to funding or facilities when a member of an LGBT relationship requires care due to dementia. Some countries and states have begun to address the situation, but there is a lot of ground left to be covered.
It is an unfortunate truth that any given professional caregiver may harbor individual biases against homosexuals, transgenders, and/or any other sexual minority. The result could range from outright abuse to the neglect of duties, all of which would severely impair the patient’s chances of receiving an adequate level of care. This is not to say that intolerance is a rampant problem in the medical care industry, but the threat is always real for an LGBT patient.
Maintaining a Sense of Community
Social activities are an important part of any treatment plan for a person with dementia. This aspect tends to be overlooked in general, but it can become especially troublesome for LGBT patients. Sexual minorities are often involved in a wider community. These groups can play key roles in their lives, as they are a source of support, friendship, and understanding that is unavailable in many other social settings. There are few, if any, dementia treatment programs that offer social activities tailored to the LGBT experience.
Even when receiving professional care, patients with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia can benefit immensely from having strong personal support networks through the course of their treatment. This responsibility is usually expected to be met by the closest family members, though some people sadly do not have this option. LGBT patients are at a higher risk than others of suffering from a lack of family support. According to this new study, they are more likely to reach older ages without a partner or children being present.
Clearly, the LGBT community has a number of legitimate concerns about receiving care for dementia. An unfortunate consequence is the hesitance to seek help, which will surely decrease their quality of life in the long-term. Early diagnosis is especially unlikely in these cases.
An LGBT person may feel more comfortable using a self-administered tool like the BrainTest® app, which can help them detect early signs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias on their own. Still, a professional opinion is vital, as will be professional services if a diagnosis is confirmed.