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One nursing home problem you may not have thought about

When we think of problems occurring in nursing homes, we first think about physical abuse and neglect. But emotional abuse also occurs, and one of the emerging types of emotional abuse coming into view is of LGBT residents.

The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that 27 percent of aging individuals identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender experience anxiety about discrimination. Research from this group suggests that older LGBT people suffer from higher rates of abuse and neglect than their straight counterparts.

The plain fact is that bullying of gay and lesbian residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities causes a great deal of pain. In some reported cases it extends to physical bullying. Mistreatment can take many forms:

  • Humiliation, insults, intimidation and ridicule
  • Groups ganging up on the LBGT individual - teasing, scapegoating, or isolating the individual from group activities
  • In worst cases, terrorizing, menacing or physically attacking the resident

The fact is, many people are intolerant of persons with a different sexual orientation. A recent NPR report described the fear felt by a 68-year-old man rehabbing after surgery in a Lindsay, California, nursing home in the Central Valley.

It troubled this man that staff kept asking him about his spouse - who was, of course, a man. When he finally said his partner's name, people treated him different from that point on.

Then the same gentleman was placed in a room with two men just out of prison, who terrified him with stories of their prison sexual exploits.

The National Center on Elder Abuse published statistics showing that:

  • 65 percent of LGBT persons reported victimization by fellow residents and staff, including verbal abuse, threats of violence, physical and sexual assault, and threats of being "outed" to others.
  • 29 percent had been physically assaulted. Men were three times more likely to be assaulted.
  • 8.9 percent of gay and lesbian residents were threatened with or experienced blackmail or financial exploitation.

These violent acts had serious health repercussions, resulting in significant declines in mental health and quality of life.

Do residents have legal options? Yes, they do. If they or their families have been harmed, they may be entitled to financial compensation for the harm done to them.

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