Just over 6% of seniors identify as LGBT. And while many places are very accepting, homosexuality is still outlawed in over 2 dozen countries. So while this community has made great strides, we still have a long way to go before discrimination isn’t an everyday occurrence. And the discrimination is everywhere: in the job market, housing, and most detrimental of all–healthcare and senior living. Not only do medical professionals struggle to understand LGBT individuals, but in some cases, they will outright refuse to see or house them. This blatant discrimination must be stopped, but in the meantime, here are some ways to avoid those situations and get the best care possible for your LGBT loved ones.

Health “Care”

The healthcare system alone is not what makes it difficult for LGBT people to get the care they need–it starts with discrimination in the workplace that could prevent them from getting health insurance or retirement benefits to begin with. Because of this, access to mental healthcare is limited and exacerbates a multitude of problems. Higher risk of disease, substance abuse, and increased stress are just a handful of the challenges the gay community faces. Luckily, there are laws in place in the United States that should prevent this from happening, but of course, not every facility will adhere to those as well as they should.

What To Look For In Elder Care

While it may seem like a given that you’ll need a healthcare provider that truly cares about their work, there are certain qualities to look for. The aging LGBT community needs someone who understands the historical and social significance of a person who came out during an unfriendly time period, and who is sensitive and supportive of both the individual and the cause. This entails understanding that due to social prejudice, some LGBT seniors need extra financial help. They are also at a higher risk for poverty, due to past discrimination that affected their careers. It’s plenty difficult to find a nursing home that you find acceptable for a loved one–much less one that is part of a marginalized community, and who may not have the financial means to pay for the quality care they deserve. The good thing is, in recent years, getting assistance with those costs has gotten easier, and with the ever rising cost of medical care, these programs can literally save lives.

The LGBT Community

Many websites have resources to help find the care your loved ones require. These resources are readily available and include programs for all kinds of health–mental, physical, and that of the community. Comradery is an extremely important factor in the success of aging minorities. That is why, when looking for assisted living accommodations, gay-friendly communities and nursing homes are a necessity. Providing your loved one with a sense of belonging can be extremely beneficial to their mental health, since the older generation of people with differing sexual orientation and gender identities have been dealing with ostracism likely their whole lives.

Soon-to-be-gone are the days where the gay, elderly, or poor are mistreated out of ignorance, but let’s continue to support one another until these discriminatory practices are eradicated completely–this community and its members are valid, precious lives and deserve to be treated as such.