Older people are ever rarely seen as “sexual beings”, so it’s no surprise that the sexuality of older adults is often ignored by society.
So what happens when a homosexual person enters aged care? Do they receive different treatment, or does sexuality not matter when you are aged?
One Irish research surveyed nurses from 89 different aged care facilities around Ireland to explore their views on caring for gay and lesbian aged care residents.
With people living longer around the world, and more people relying on aged care services later in life, it’s expected that the population of LGBTI in aged care is set to increase.
However, according to a report on the inclusion of older LGBTI people in residential care in Northern Ireland, people who are from a sexual minority group are 2.5 times more likely to live alone, twice as likely to be single, and 4.5 times as likely to have no children.
In aged care, it is expected that all aspects of the health, personal and social care needs of the resident are met. So where does a person’s sexual preference fit into that?
According to the 143 surveyed nurses, 57.3% thought the sexual needs of their residents were not being met while 24.5% were unsure if they were.
The ability to express one’s sexuality contributes to their wellbeing and overall quality of life. It is a fundamental and lifelong need, which more than 81% of these respondents agreed.
When challenging how their role as a nurse and a caregiver to these residents could change to incorporate discussing such topics, 67.8% of the respondents said that they would be comfortable talking about such topics.
While only 13.3% said they would not feel comfortable discussing sexuality with residents in their care, and the remaining 18.9% were unsure how they would feel.
Despite the lack expression and care of sexual needs that were being met in these Irish facilities, the nurses felt that their overall care was unaffected. 81.8% of all the surveyed nurses felt there was no difference between caring for an LGBTI resident and caring for a heterosexual resident.
However, 46.2% also thought they had never cared for a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person before and 21% were unsure.
It appeared that there was a lack of documentation when it came to the residents sexuality, because sexuality is seen as private, it is often not discussed in healthcare. The nurses are often unaware, as 43.4% indicated that nursing assessment documentation used at their workplace does not have any questions on sexuality.
From the perspective of the nurses, they believe that they offer the same care to all residents regardless of their sexual preference. However, research concluded that the sexual needs of older people in nursing homes in Ireland are not being adequately addressed.
How would these results compare if a similar study was undertaken here in Australia? Are staff adequately trained to support people who identify as LGBTI?