GONZAGA UNIVERSITY Summer 2012 COML508 A1 Chris MacLellan, Katie Nolde,Lynda Pierce, and Jared Pinkos
One of the most underserved communities in America is Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) seniors. They grew up in a time when theywere told that homosexuality was not only a mental illness, but also a crime!Because of that, many LGBT seniors live in fear because of the social stigmathey experienced as a youth. They grew out of a system they do not trust, butnow are forced to rely on as they age. Applying the phenomenologicaltradition, to help understand the plight of LGBT seniors in America, we spokewith professionals in the field and LGBT seniors in the trenches. Through theseconversations, we are able to identify where society has failed LGBT seniorsand how this is changing to help resolve this failure in our society. We applycommunication theory, propose a new theory, and discuss a solution in theform of a phone tree for LGBT seniors.
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A 78 year old lesbian would have been 39 before the American Psychiatric Association finally removed homosexuality form its list of psychiatric disorders. In 1953 President Eisenhower signed an executive order barring all gay men and lesbian women from holding federal jobs, calling them people with “sexual perversion”…it wasn’t lifted until 1975. A 68 year old bisexual Vietnam Vet going to the VA hospital www.ronsview.org would have been 49 when President Clinton implemented the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. At 68 he would finally see the ban on gays in the military fully lifted. The Stonewall Riots in NYC in June 1969 marked a turning point in the gay rights movement. Before this time, secret gay clubs and societies would be routinely raided and harassed. After the riots, demonstrations around the country led to group unity and a new voice (Carter, 2009). www.threelionspubquiz.blogspot.com
Throughout their life, LGBT seniors have experienced discrimination solely for being ‘different.’ This discrimination is a result of Failure in Communication in our society, resulting in a negative view of the social systems amongst LGBT seniors. This stigma has potentially dire consequences as it prevents many LGBT seniors from seeking out needed medical attention because of their fear of discrimination. “A large percentage of LGBT people fear they might not get LGBT sensitive or medical services. This prevents some people from seeking out services when they need them and may prevent others from being completely honest about their sexual orientation with their medical providers, thus possibly setting the stage for sub-standard or inadequate care….” (SAGE Friendly Visitor Training www.queerty.com Curriculum Guide).
To gather information relating to the problem of LGBT healthcare, including literature and interviews with professionals who work with the LGBT seniors. By applying the phenomenological tradition, we interview seniors and professionals in the field to understand the issues with a focus on communication perspectives. By doing so we hope to formulate a potential communication theory that could be implemented to help begin to alleviate the situation, and get LGBT seniors on the path to accessing all health and human care services.
Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann 12/19/16 - 3/25/10 A theory by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann that is used to explain growth and spread of public opinion (Griffin, 2009). www.blogs.worldbank.org The increasing pressure people feel to conceal their views when they think they are in the minority (Griffin, 2009, p. 372). LGBT seniors, afraid that revealing their sexual orientation will hurt their ability to get fair health coverage, will revert to a spiral of silence and hidewww.ravianuogian.blogspot.com their sexual identity.
Theory www.unitedchurchhomes.org Buber focuses on dialogues between two people (Griffin, 2012). Theory in Action Byresearch and completing interviews we are able to see the lack of sufficient dialogue among LGBT seniors. Application The establishment of a phone tree support system opens up the dialogue in many ways. This will allow LGBT seniors the avenue to express their needs and wishes. Will also enable the social service organizations to know how to better cater to the specific needs of the community.
Theory Unconditional positive regard www.queersunited.blogspot.com “attitude of acceptance that is not contingent upon performance” (Griffin, 2012, p.111) Empathetic understanding “…temporarily laying aside our views and values and entering into another’s world without prejudice” (Griffin, 2012, p.111) Theory in Action Interviews conducted with an attitude of empathetic understanding Application LGBT people are more comfortable obtaining support from cohorts. They are more likely to take advice from their cohorts regarding medical health, personal hygiene, etc. The phone tree fosters this support.
Fewer than half of LGBT people in midlife believe they will receive respectful care in old age. As a result they frequently delay or avoid seeking medical care for a fear of discrimination or bias (Kimmel et al, 2006). Studies show a higher rate of depression and suicide among LGBT seniors versus heterosexual seniors. They also generally report themselves in poorer health than heterosexual seniors (Kimmel et al, projectqatlanta.com 2006). Long term care is especially a problem. Studies have found negative attitudes from nursing home staff, inabilities to meet with or move in with same-sex partners, and refusal to allow families of choice in on decision making (Kimmel et al, 2006).
Dr. Catherine Campbell, Director of Clinical Services, SunServe Social Services “For the LGBT community, there has been so much misinformation communicated to the general public about homosexuality that it is often hard to get beyond the social stigmas” (Dr. Catherine Campbell, telephone interview, July www.sunserve.org 3, 2012). Holly Deni Registered Financial Gerontologist, Elder Life “This same generation of LGBT seniors do not often ask for help and are afraid of going to the doctor because they do not want to reveal certain things. For this generation, these stigmas do no go away, they linger and help form their www.linkedin.com decisions” (Holly Deni, telephone interview, July 5, 2012).
Loren Olson, PhD Author of Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight, Psychiatrist’s Own Story “It is unfortunate that there has to be a presidential mandate for something that is as simple as who can visit who in a hospital… Now those rights are protected by the federal mandate which has helped to take some of the fear out of LGBT visitation” (Dr. Loren Olson, telephone interview, July www.mentalhelp.net 5, 2012). Sherrill Wayland, Executive Director, SAGE St. Louis “One of our basic human needs is to be treated the same as our peers and to be treated with dignity and respect. LGBT seniors want to be able to age in place without fear of neglect. Once we resolve the issue of equality, many of the fears of LGBT seniors will dissipate which in turn, will have a positive effect on the health the LGBT senior” (Sherrill Wayland, telephone interview, July 3, 2012). www.stlbeacon.org
Bernard, 81 years old “For years, I was made to feel like a third class citizen when visiting doctors….There has always been the fear of not being accepted….Gay seniors often climb into a cocoon to protect themselves” (“Bernard”, telephone interview, July 4, 2012). Tom, 83 years old “I am amazed to learn of all the different support groups that are available for gay seniors. That has helped me meet new friends and have conversations like I have never had in my life before….I did not realize that there are so many gay men and women who live alone” (“Tom”, telephone interview, July 5, 2012). Williams, 78 years old “All the seniors I interact with, whether they are straight or www.jerkmag.wordpress.com gay have the same concerns as it relates to health, loneliness, financial concerns, yet for the LGBT senior who lives out of fear as they age, that is quite burdensome” (“Williams”, telephone interview, July 6, 2012).
Seniors’ fears include discrimination, loneliness, and lack of understanding by health care providers. Seniors would benefit from one-on-one contact, to discuss issues and to reassure them that they are welcome within the healthcare system. Referring to works by Buber and Rogers, we think that a theory based in the phenomenological tradition would greatly benefit seniors. Existing phone tree programs are working to alleviate the concerns of LGBT seniors. LGBT seniors are paired with a supportive volunteer who makes contact each week.
Theory “Theory of Empathetic Communication” purports that people want to have communication with others who have situations that are similar to their own, and who are empathetic to their situations. Theory in Action Group 5 interviews conducted by a member of the LGBT community. Interviewees were candid in their responses. Application The phone tree supports empathetic communication. LGBT seniors have a resource, no matter where they live, to communicate with empathetic others.
www.badgesociety.comPresidential Memorandum of April 15, 2010. Respecting the Rights ofHospital Patients to Receive Visitors and Designate SurrogateDecision Makers for Medical Emergencies.
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Kimmel, D., Rose, T., & David, S. (2006). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender aging: Research and clinical perspectives. New York: Columbia University Press. LGBT Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE). (2010). Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults. Morris, K. L. (2009). Lessons Learned: How to Provide More Effective Outreach to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Seniors. Bifocal, 30(5), 77-78. Presidential Memorandum (2010). Respecting the Rights of Hospital Patients to Receive Visitors and to Designate Surrogate Decision Makers for Medical Emergencies. (Presidential Memorandum of April 15, 2010). Washington, DC: U.S. The White House.