The historical Supreme Court’s decision to overturn DOMA in 2013 might have led some to believe that the playing field was somehow gloriously and instantly evened out, but that’s simply not the case. In fact, for some, it’s complicated their lives, especially those facing the end of their lives. Until society understands these realities, there will remain a huge divide among those who thought, “There. Now we’re even,” and those who knew it was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
LGBT seniors still fear seeking out healthcare and will often delay it because they’re unsure of how a caregiver in a hospital or even a physician’s office will treat them. Many who are hospitalized will explain their partners away as a “friend” or even a sibling instead of introducing them or making it known that they’re the patient’s partner. There’s a real sadness to that, too. The fears of discrimination are real and for many, they opt to go back into the closet to avoid the stress over the quality of care they receive as a gay person.
In fact, there have been hospice and home health professionals who report visiting clients who may be “staging” their homes in order to avoid the healthcare workers from feeling uncomfortable. And it’s their own homes.
With the number of LGBT seniors expected to double over the next two decades, it’s clear there has to be a better way because right now, many are isolating themselves at a time when they most need the attention and care of friends, family and most importantly, healthcare professionals. Many often overlook the importance of wills, powers of attorney and other important estate planning documents.
For its part, the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is gearing up to better meet the needs of those who are working double time to protect their final days.
If you’re wondering how big the problem is, consider the fact that LGBT seniors are typically more likely to face mental distress and disability and even after they seek out help, they’re also more likely to face barriers to the same quality care their heterosexual counterparts receive.
A report released last year, The Aging and Health Report: Disparities and Resilience among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Older Adults, revealed that more than 20 percent of LGBT older adults reporting they had not come out about their sexual orientation or gender identity to their primary physician.
Of course, there are those fearful reminders of coming out in a far more dangerous time, when homosexuality meant a person may be criminalized or damned to hell. In fact, more than 80 percent of older LGBT citizens say they had been victimized at some point in their lives because of their sexuality. All of this leads to those numbers that show isolation and depression being more likely.
It’s for these reasons that estate planning should be a priority for anyone in the LGBT community, especially when it comes to end of life wishes. Our estate planning lawyers can help put healthcare proxies, powers of attorney and other important legal documents into place. Our clients – whether they’re straight or gay – have come to rely on our team of experienced lawyers to ensure their legal bases are covered and the necessary legal protections are in place. Without these important documents, a partner may find his voice silenced. It’s simply a risk you no longer have to take. If we can help with your estate planning efforts, we invite you to contact our office to learn more about what we offer all of our clients.