Trinity Church of Northborough’s welcoming approach on display/Photo by Douglas Flynn

LGBTQ+ caregivers experience many of the same responsibilities, demands and rewards of caring for a loved one that all other caregivers experience. But LGBTQ+ caregivers and anyone caring for a loved one in the LGBTQ+ community also face some unique issues and concerns.

The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging notes that LGBTQ+ older adults are twice as likely to age as a single person, twice as likely to live alone and three to four times less likely to have children to support them. Many LGBT older adults instead have “developed important social networks of partners, friends, ex-partners, neighbors and others. These networks are often referred to as ‘families of choice.'”

Many caregivers for LGBTQ+ older adults are from these families of choice. And while the demands and rewards of caregiving are no different than for caregivers of biological relatives, there are often additional challenges. Most significantly, the rights of LGBTQ+ family of choice caregivers may not always be recognized under the law, or can be challenged by health care providers, staff or members of the care recipient‘s family of origin.

Issues facing LGBTQ+ caregivers

The challenges LGBTQ+ caregivers can face in caring for their loved ones makes having the proper legal documentation in order particularly important for LGBTQ+ caregivers.

Among the documents to have are an advance directive, health care proxy, living will, financial power of attorney, hospital visitation directive and HIPAA release. SAGE (Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders) has a checklist of documents in its “Guide to LGBT Caregiving.”

The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Employees are able to take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. The leave covers not only the employee’s own medical issues, but also to care for a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition.

That is obviously very important to family caregivers, but LGBTQ+ caregivers often cannot use this leave if they are caring for a partner, friend or another member of their family of choice. The U.S. Department of Labor did modify its definition of spouse to include legal same-sex marriages after the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. Also, some employers do allow employees to take leave to care for a family of choice members, so check with your employer if you are in that situation.

LGBTQ+ Support Groups

LGBT Caregiver Group 
For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who are providing care for a loved one
Location: Jamaica Plain
Time: First Monday of the month, 6-7:30 p.m.
Contact: Joanne Peskowitz, LICSW, 617-271-4182

Alzheimer’s Association LGBTQ Phone Support Group
Join other LGBTQ spouses and partners to support one another while receiving information and resources on Alzheimer`s disease and related dementias.
Time: First Monday of the month.
Contact: Call Barb Meehan at 508-292-0660 or email bamscats@gmail.com for details on timing and call-in information.

LGBT Bereavement Group
6-8 week group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who are coping with the loss of a loved one.
Contact: Bob Linscott, 617-477-6610

Need help when going to the doctor?

Jewish Family Service of Metrowest (JFS) Elder Care Solutions Patient Navigator Program provides trained volunteers to accompany older adults to medical appointments, providing support and guidance to help older adults get the information and care they need. The program is available free of charge for older adults living in Framingham and the surrounding area.

LGBT+ Ally Patient Navigator Expansion
With support from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation Momentum Fund and the Cummings Foundations Sustaining Grant, the JFS Patient Navigator program has expanded its reach into the local older adult LGBT+ community to combat the health disparities that effect LGBT+ older adults and to break down the barriers that these individuals face in health care settings. For more information, contact JFS by email or call 508-875-3100 x110.
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Family Caregiver Support Program

The Family Caregiver Support Program (FCSP) provides assistance, support and counseling to people caring for an older adult. The program is not limited to family of origin relatives. It is open to friends, partners and family of choice members.

Among the services the Family Caregiver Support Program can provide:

  • One-on-one consultation to assess needs, identify options and provide referrals to community-based services
  • Information about community resources and services
  • Assistance gaining access to those services
  • Individual supportive counseling
  • Connections to ongoing support
  • Follow up contact as needed

The FCSP is free and open to any person caring for an adult 60 years of age or older or a person with Alzheimer’s disease of any age. The program is also open to grandparents or other non-parental relatives aged 55 or older caring for a grandchild under 18 or an adult with a disability aged 18-59.

FCSP’s serving MetroWest:

BayPath Elder Services, Inc.
Phone: 508-573-7239
Website: www.baypath.org/caregiver.html
MetroWest towns served: Ashland, Dover, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Natick, Northborough, Sherborn, Southborough, Sudbury, Wayland, Westborough

Tri-Valley, Inc.
Phone: 800-286-6640
Website: www.trivalleyinc.org/caregiver-support/
MetroWest towns served: Bellingham, Franklin, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford

HESSCO Elder Services
Phone: 781-784-4944
Website: hessco.org/caregiver-assistance/
MetroWest towns served: Medfield, Millis, Norfolk

Phone: 617-926-4100
Website: www.springwell.com/service/caregiver-support
MetroWest towns served: Needham, Wellesley

For FCSPs covering the rest of Massachusetts, check out the MassOptions caregiver support page or visit 800AgeInfo. The FCSP is administered by Area Agencies on Aging throughout the nation. For information about programs outside Massachusetts, visit the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

BayPath Elder Services LGBTQ+ Initiative 

BayPath Elder Services, Inc.’s mission is to be a trusted partner in providing an array of services and programs to older adults, caregivers and persons with disabilities to support their independence and dignity. As part of that mission, BayPath strives to provide the very best information, resources and supports to LGBTQ+ older adults and their allies living in MetroWest.

In 2017, BayPath received a grant from the MetroWest Health Foundation to help build a sustainable relationship with the MetroWest LGBTQ+ older adult community in order to improve access to LGBTQ+ inclusive and informed health, mental health, and other information, resources, and services.

The resulting LGBTQ+ Initiative seeks to provide outreach to LGBTQ+ older adults, families and caregivers, community agencies, allies, businesses and individuals in order to establish BayPath as an LGBTQ+ informed and inclusive place to find support, information and resources for health and well-being.

BayPath is also developing a resource guide of LGBTQ+ inclusive resources (health care providers, vendors, community agencies and businesses) and contact information of local, state, and government agencies where LGBTQ+ elders can seek professional advice, obtain resources and build new relationships with health care, mental healthcare, and other professionals in MetroWest rather than having to go to Worcester or Boston to receive LGBTQ+ competent care.

The initiative will also train BayPath staff, local Councils on Aging, Senior Centers, and the wider community on LGBTQ+ older adult issues in order to improve LGBTQ+ competency.

For more information about BayPath’s LGBTQ+ Initiative and all of BayPath’s programs for older adults, caregivers and persons with disabilities, call its confidential phone line at 508-573-7288 or check out the LGBT Initiative section of the agency’s website.

Additional web resources

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