Q:  I am caring for my same-sex partner who has dementia. As a gay couple, are there any local services or support that can address our unique care needs?

A:  Caring for someone with dementia is challenging for everyone. However, people in the LGBT+ community may face compounded challenges due to a history of discrimination and fear of not being able to access safe services. Thankfully, there are some resources that can hopefully help you in your caregiving role.

LGBT+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, with the plus sign signifying other representations including queer, questioning, and more.  As this population ages and seeks appropriate care and support, some challenges need to be addressed.  Forty percent of people in the LGBT+ community report that their support networks have become smaller over time, and up to 30% experience decreased access to care. We know that fear of discrimination can delay access to appropriate care.

Knowing where to find safe and welcoming care and support is important to ensuring you and your loved one have what you need for the best quality of life. The Alzheimer’s Association has created a webpage devoted to resources for the LGBT+ community experiencing dementia. You can find the website here or you can call them at 1-800-272-3900.

This website includes resources for caregivers of someone with dementia, including information on what you need to do to prepare for the future. It is especially important to think ahead about long-term care and end of life decisions. If your loved one wants you to be the designated representative to make decisions for them in the future, you want to have the right documentation in place. Be sure to have an Advanced Healthcare Directive in place and talk through what your loved one will want (and not want) in the future as care needs change and progress.

Locally, there is a support group specifically for LGBT+ people who are caring for a loved one with dementia. It is co-sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association and Coast Caregiver Resource Center. It meets in Thousand Oaks on the first and third Mondays of every month from 1 – 2:30pm. It also offers a Zoom option for those who cannot attend in person. The group is run by Brenda Birdwell from Coast Caregiver Resource Center. You can contact her to sign up or learn more at 805-699-8907.

The Ventura County Area Agency on Aging has a project called the LGBT+ Aging Coalition of Ventura County. This coalition was formed to address the unique needs of members of our LGBT+ aging community in Ventura County. They work to provide educational trainings to businesses that serve the older adult population in order to create a more LGBT+ friendly Ventura County. You can learn more at the VCAAA website.

Caregiving for a loved one with dementia is challenging for everyone. It can be an emotional roller coaster as you learn how to meet your loved one’s needs, while also adapting to the changes you are seeing in your personal relationship. Finding the right support for you is important. I encourage you to reach out and know that there are support groups, information, and resources to support you in your caregiving journey.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.

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