LGBTQ older adults and their heterosexual, cisgender peers face many common aging-related challenges that have significant implications for professional service providers and caregivers. For example, older adults can experience cognitive impairment that affects their relationships with lawyers, financial service providers, business partners, loved ones, and caregivers. Many older adults, irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity, experience heightened vulnerability to financial exploitation, fraud, abusive guardianships, and physical abuse even in the absence of cognitive impairment. And older adults, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, must negotiate the practical challenges associated with maintaining their dignity and autonomy as their need for long-term supportive services and housing supports grows. These shared challenges require lawyers and caregivers to interact with, anticipate the needs of, and support older adults in dynamic ways. Yet for LGBTQ older adults who have experienced historical and or compound discrimination, the challenges associated with aging can present unique ethical, legal, and practical challenges for professional service providers and caregivers. Older LGBT adults, depending on their status as out or closeted, membership in other minority groups, employment history and financial circumstances, access to housing and relevant healthcare supports, estrangement from their families of origin and other social connectedness, and geographic location, need lawyers and support providers to account for their unique circumstances. For example, older LGBTQ adults might need to delegate powers to partners that circumvent legal restrictions and default asset distribution rules or family rejection of partners, identify people to exercise powers when family members and close friends are unavailable, plan for supportive housing arrangements that do not require them to re-closet, and plan for long-term care and support when they (after years of underemployment and employment discrimination) lack substantial savings. LGBTQ caregivers also face many challenges shared by heterosexual and cisgender peers, but they too face unique caregiving challenges as a result of their own experiences of discrimination, single and compound, which can include fewer social supports and financial resources. For example, LGBTQ caregivers may struggle to care for parents and other loved ones when there is friction between parents and partners, or, alternatively, when there are warm relationships between parents and partners, but no children to assist with caregiving. Closeted LGBTQ caregivers can face increased psychological strain when trying to reconcile caregiving responsibilities with the maintenance of other relationships, and myriad logistical challenges when they share lives with partners and cannot readily move an aging parent in need of care into their home. LGBTQ caregivers, like heterosexual and cisgender peers, often struggle with their dual roles as members of the “sandwich generation.” During this panel discussion, we will explore the unique legal and support needs of older adults, the ethical issues that arise for lawyers and other supportive service providers as they seek to meet the needs of older adults, and the needs of caregivers as they attempt to support older adults. By reviewing relevant legal and ethical rules, legal options, a range of supportive services, and hypotheticals that help to illuminate the challenges faced by LGBTQ older adults and caregivers and potential resources to meet those challenges, we will explore ways to assist both LGBTQ older adults and those who love them meet their respective needs.
Speakers: Avery Belyeu (Lambda Legal); Denny Chan (Justice in Aging); Geron Gadd (AARP Foundation); Tim Johnston (SAGE); Shelly Skeen (Lambda Legal)