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New Zealand LGBT aged care study finds other residents’ homophobia a problem

Researchers from New Zealand’s University of Auckland who conducted the country’s first study into the needs of older LGBTs in aged care found staff feel other residents’ homophobia is the biggest issue they deal with

University of Auckland researchers have conducted the country’s first research examining the views and experiences of staff caring for older LGBTs in residential aged care facilities and retirement homes.

Findings reveal that staff believed sexual orientation had little influence on their ability to care for residents, but found dealing with homophobic attitudes and behavior by other residents a particular challenge.

But most staff also felt that community organizations that advocate on behalf of older LGBTs were a valuable resource to draw on.

‘I think it is important that the expertise is out there and that aged care facilities can tap into this,’ said Dr Gary Bellamy, a Research Fellow in the School of Nursing at The University of Auckland.

‘There is great value in making sure that staff are aware of what is available.’

‘The project is a first for New Zealand and will help to raise awareness of the unique needs of people from sexual minorities as they age,’

Earlier research from Australia had found that older LGBTs accessing retirement and residential aged care facilities experienced high levels of unmet needs and fears of discrimination but no comparable research had been conducted in New Zealand.

The New Zealand study involved discussion groups with 47 staff from seven residential aged care facilities around Auckland.

Staff in the study said that knowing family members, friends and colleagues who identified as lesbian or gay helped in their ability to empathize with LGBT residents.

Issues of trust were seen as fundamental considering most residents had grown up at a time when homosexuality was criminalized and lesbianism was vilified.

As a result, affording older LGBTs the time to develop trusting relationships with care workers was important.

The findings from the study are being used to develop guidelines for staff working in aged care facilities in New Zealand and will be followed up with a study of the views and experiences of older LGBTs and their partners regarding residential aged care.

The researchers were assisted by colleagues from Massey University and representatives from health and social care organizations.

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