June is a month for celebrating diversity in love, sexuality and gender expression. As we celebrate Pride Month, it’s important to recognize that while most of the visual representation of the LGBTQ2+ community highlights its younger members, the community is not limited to teens and young adults. There are also many older adults who identify as LGBTQ2+, and many of these older adults receive home care across the province and country.
At Circle of Care we strive each day for a more inclusive environment, ensuring all of our clients feel safe, welcomed, and accepted. This year, we’re sharing some best practices that we’re highlighting to our team when caring for a LGBTQ2+ client:
1. Provide professional care to all clients, no matter their sexual orientation or gender expression.
All clients deserve professional care. No matter their sexual orientation or gender expression, they are human beings first.
Be conscious about the words and actions you use, in order to avoid micro-aggressions. A micro-aggression can be verbal, behavioral or environmental slights, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups. An example of a micro-aggression would be to continuously refer to a client’s partner as their roommate or cousin, even after they’ve introduced them as their partner. Listen to the language your client uses to refer to themselves or others to help guide you during your visits, including what pronouns they use for themselves or family members.
2. Be aware of the vulnerability that LGBTQ2+ clients will likely feel about letting a stranger into their home.
Most LGBTQ2+ older adults have experienced violence against themselves or someone in their community at some point in their lives. Their homes can be one of a few sacred spaces to them where they feel safe and accepted, and yet as they age, they now have to open up their homes to people they don’t know, in order to receive personal care or homemaking.
Keep in mind that have PSWs or other service workers coming into their homes can leave them feeling vulnerable or anxious. Each new person is someone new that could potentially react poorly to them and their situation. It may take them longer than some of your other clients to open up to you or feel comfortable around you.
3. It can be easy to stereotype, but everyone part of the LGBTQ2+ community is their own person too.
Understand that television and movies often over exaggerate certain personality quirks or features in LGBTQ2+ individuals. Do not assume your client will act a certain way when interacting with them. Each person is their own individual, and the way that they express themselves is unique to them. Some LGBTQ2+ older adults will be more comfortable sharing details about their lives, and others will be very reserved. Some clients will want affirmation and verbal support, and others won’t want you to acknowledge anything unique or different about them at all. Each client has their own preferences, so it’s important to listen and adjust to each situation.
4. Self-reflect and be self-aware.
To ensure your client receives the best care means to do some self-reflection. Ask yourself: ”How can I make sure my clients feel safe? Am I doing anything that makes them uncomfortable?” If you have trouble answering those questions, the best solution is to ask these questions to your clients, and have an open and willing heart to hear their answers sincerely. Asking them these questions and following through will also show them that you are taking steps to make sure they feel accepted and comfortable.
Your body language is also a form of communication. When a conversation touches on something LGBTQ2+ related, be aware of what your body is communicating. For example, do you cross your arms or pull your eyes away from them? If they feel you pulling away, they may feel dismissed or uncomfortable. If you feel as though your body language does not match your acceptance of your client, always clarify with your words by letting your client know that you accept them for who they are.
5. Stay educated.
You can show your clients that you care by educating yourself on the history of the LGBTQ2+ community, and by trying to understand the issues they’re passionate about, while always staying open-minded. There are many great resources online where you can find helpful information about many topics that impact the LGBTQ2+ community. For our Circle of Care staff, we’re sharing resources through our weekly emails and on our PSW Portal to help provide guidance and information.
Thank you for those who continue to care with these best practices in mind, as we strive to work towards always providing safe and inclusive care to members of the community. Happy Pride Month!