Lois A. Bowers

A new ad will be creating conversations and opportunities for senior living communities and long-term care facilities to share where they stand on housing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults.

The ad, released Thursday by SAGE Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders and the Movement Advancement Project, depicts an older man in a wheelchair entering an assisted living community with younger loved ones on move-in day. Staff members greet him warmly, but then the executive director spots a “25th anniversary” photo of the man with another man among the resident-to-be’s possessions. The man is shown the door. (Watch the ad for yourself below.)

Discrimination in senior living may not happen exactly that way, but LGBT residents have sued communities over issues of discrimination. The release of the ad follows this month’s Supreme Court ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission; the March release of an AARP study that found that worries about potential neglect, abuse, access to services and harassment in assisted living communities and other long-term care settings are common among LGBT adults; and the January announcement of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which LGBT advocates fear will allow discrimination.

SAGE says it is concerned that 60% of states do not have laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBT people and that no federal law exists to protect LGBT people from discrimination. Also, SAGE says, approximately 85% of nonprofit continuing care retirement communities are affiliated with a religion, which could put some LGBT older adults at risk.

There are several ways that senior living organizations can express or strengthen their support for LGBT issues.

SAGE has created a pledge for care providers who vow to stand with LGBT elders in the face of discrimination. You’ll find it online as part of the organization’s “Care Can’t Wait” campaign, which is part of the larger “Open to All” campaign.

If increasing cultural competency in this area is on your organization’s to-do list, SAGE also offers the SAGECare training program. Just last week, The Merion senior living community announced that it had become the first senior living community in Illinois to earn the credential, having completed a four-hour training session for upper management and one-hour in-person training programs for frontline caregivers and team members; the community also will receive ongoing training and support. Now, Mark Zullo, marketing director of The Merion, says, “Our staff is trained to foster a supportive environment.”

What else can senior living operators do to create such an environment?

One option coming up is to attend the American Assisted Living Nurses Association / National Center for Assisted Living’s July 19 webinar, “Talking the Talk: Having Difficult Conversation on LGBT-Related Topics.”

An additional option is to read the ideas shared in a recent blog post by Brookdale Senior Living Senior Director of Optimum Life Engagement and Innovation Carol Cummings, BSN, RN. She passes along tips from a February continuing education event, “LGBT Elders: Best Practices for Creating Safety and Inclusion,” held by the company.

“The event was the highest attended continuing education program we’ve offered, with nearly 1,000 participants from 106 communities, and was one of the most requested topics when we surveyed healthcare professionals,” Cummings said. (The event is still viewable online via a link in the blog, although you can’t receive CEs for watching it.)

The need to know such best practices is only going to grow. SAGE estimates that by 2030, there will be approximately 7 million LGBT older people in the United States. So if your organization hasn’t started yet or wants to grow in this area, there’s no time like the present.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers. Email her at [email protected].

The ad released Thursday by SAGE Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders and the Movement Advancement Project: