Living with dementia can often present some unique challenges for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse individuals and for those caring for them.
Now a guide LGBTI and Dementia - Understanding changes in behaviour has been released by Dementia Support Australia, and LGBTIQ+ Health Australia (LHA) to help aged care workers better meet the needs of people from LGBTIQ+ communities living with dementia, and to inform the wider community about this often-overlooked demographic.
Head of Dementia Support Australia, Marie Alford, said LGBTIQ+ people living with dementia in aged care may experience changes in behaviour, known as behaviours and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), as a result of past trauma or experiences of discrimination.
"Although changes in behaviour may be related to the progression of dementia, many are a consequence of or impacted by other internal and external modifiable factors," Ms Alford said.
"Supporting marginalised groups has been a core focus of our work for a long time. We additionally want to empower our aged care workforce which is as equally diverse as the people we serve.
"The past two years have been a particularly challenging time for LGBTIQ+ older people living with dementia, who are already more prone to social isolation."
LHA's Director of Training and Capacity Building, Robert Hardy said with the progression of dementia, LGBTIQ+ people can have difficulty communicating their specific needs, and be innately distrustful of healthcare staff.
"These older Australians lived through a time when expressing their true identity and sexuality led to discrimination, criminalisation and social isolation.
"The fear of expressing your gender, sexual orientation and or bodily diversity is carried throughout the lives of LGBTIQ+ people. Moving into aged care homes, away from existing support systems can be particularly traumatic, leading to people feeling increasingly distressed," Mr Hardy said.
"This distress can commonly lead to anxiety, aggression, apathy and social withdrawal. The historical discrimination and abuse experienced by older LGBTIQ+ people can still create a significant barrier for LGBTIQ+ older people to live authentically."
Mr Hardy said it is vital that aged care staff and health professionals have access to resources such as this booklet so that they can understand the underlying reasons why older LGBTIQ+ people feel and behave so that they can implement safe and appropriate care. Under Australia's Aged Care Quality Standards each consumer must be treated with dignity and respect, with their identity, culture and diversity valued.
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