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AARP Survey: Many LGBT Elders Fear Long Term Care Facilities

More than 60 percent of LGBT adults, 45 and older, say they’re worried that a long term care facility might refuse or provide limited care, according to a new AARP.

They also fear neglect or abuse at the hands of their caregivers, according the the report called " Maintaining Dignity: Understanding and Responding to the Challenges Facing Older LGBT Americans."

More than 1 million LGBT elders live in the United States, and that number is growing.

Dana Kennedy, with AARP Arizona, said more needs to be done to curb those fears and it starts with better training for those in the aging field. One story that sticks with Kennedy involves an older gay woman.

"She had finally found a great caregiver and she wrote a letter to the caregiving agency and said, thank you so much and I really want to recognize this employee. And that employee then got that thank you letter and she said she never wanted to see this lady again," said Kennedy.

The survey found that 76 percent of LGBT adults were anxious about having adequate family or social supports. And without that, a person may not have an advocate.

"It’s another thing when you’re fully dependent upon on someone else taking care of you. That’s the ultimate fear. You could experience abandonment or judgement that you have no control over," said David Ragan who is with the Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix.

Ragan said there aren’t many long term care facilities in the Phoenix area that are openly LGBT friendly. 

LGBT people of color also have concerns — not just about sexual orientation or gender identity but also their race. That fear of acceptance led many responders to think that entering a long term care facility could mean having to hide or deny their identity, essentially going back into the closet. 

Senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.