Providing LGBTQ+ Inclusive Hospice Care

March 15, 2022, Caregiving, Hospice, LGBTQ+

Providing LGBTQ+ Inclusive Hospice Care

March 21 to 25 is LGBTQ Health Awareness Week—a time to bring attention to discrimination and health disparities for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and other sexual and gender minorities (LGBTQ+). Gilchrist recognizes that the LGBTQ+ community may have unique needs when they are experiencing serious illness and the end of life. Our staff are dedicated to providing person-centered, culturally sensitive care to meet these needs. 

Health Disparities for LGBTQ+ Communities 

LGBTQ+ Americans encounter discrimination in employment, relationship recognition and insurance coverage on a regular basis. As a result, they are less likely to be able to afford vital health care than their straight and non-transgender neighbors. For LGBTQ people of color, barriers to care and health disparities are even greater. 

Patient Duane Herbel with husband, Kevin, daughter, Grayson, Gilchrist hospice care
social worker Anna Blyukher and nurse Valerie Appelt.

The LGBTQ+ community is often disproportionately affected by health issues, often stemming from limited access to care or knowledgeable providers. This can lead to discomfort around setting up regular exams or refusing to make an appointment when something doesn’t feel right. Cigna reports that older LGBTQ+ adults are more likely to rate their health as poor and report more chronic conditions while having less social support.  

Limited access to care often means that these problems go untreated for longer than they should or that they aren’t addressed at all. This limited access presents itself in many ways, including being less likely to have health insurance or more likely to delay getting care. LGBTQ+ individuals regularly report lack of cultural competence by healthcare providers and are more likely to report poor quality of care and unfair treatment by healthcare providers.  

Repetitive poor experiences can lead to an individual putting their health on the backburner. Disparities around treatment access often stem from a lack of specific education and training for healthcare workers, a lack of clinical research on LGBTQ+ health-related issues, lack of LGBTQ+ specific care, as well as individual fear due to stigma, discrimination or institutional bias in the healthcare system. 

Studies show that because of anticipated discrimination, LGBTQ+ people access palliative care later or avoid it entirely. Sixty percent of older gay people believe that end-of-life care services will not be able to meet their needs. They may also fear that their partners may not be legally recognized as next of kin when it’s time to make medical decisions.  

Training on Cultural Humility 

For all of these reasons, Gilchrist is committed to ensuring our care is as inclusive as possible, so we can treat all patients with compassion and dignity. Gilchrist is an organization that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion in all that we do. Our staff receive extensive training on delivering people-centered, culturally competent care to members of different sexual, racial, ethnic, economic and religious groups.  

At its core, culturally sensitive care means genuinely listening to and hearing the needs of each patient and family we care for and being aware that individuals may have unique cultural and spiritual perspectives and care preferences.  

During National LGBTQ Health Awareness Week, Gilchrist staff will attend an educational session led by Chase Brexton Health Services, titled Cultural Humility & LGBTQ Communities. We also plan additional training going forward to ensure all staff understand these issues. At Gilchrist, we are committed to increasing the cultural humility of our workforce and decreasing disparities in healthcare. 

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