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Pima Council on Aging updates its LGBTQ training to include home health caregivers and peers

Coverage of aging is supported in part by AARP Arizona

Educating long-term care staff about how to care for and support older LGBTQ residents can be life saving. It’s one reason why the Pima Council on Aging in Southern Arizona has updated its training program. 

It’s called Visibility Matters. When the program first launched, it was aimed at staff in residential facilities, who sometimes provide personal, hands-on care. 

Now, it’s been expanded to include in-home care providers.

Sarah Bahnson, with the Pima Council on Aging says another objective of the program is data collection.

"So, if you are not collecting data on trans and intersex folks, there may be some physical constitutions on a person's body that you are missing. And you're making your medical decisions based on incomplete information," Bahnson said.

Jennifer Carnahan, a geriatrician and researcher at the Regenstrief Institute in Indiana, says people sometimes assume older adults don’t want to be asked sexual orientation or gender identity questions. 

"But the problem is you run the risk of further isolating and marginalizing people who fall into these categories," Carnahan said.

Carnahan says normalizing the collection of this kind of information can improve the culture of long-term care. 

Besides updating their training for in-home caregivers, PCOA created training specifically for peers.

"I'm very encouraged by the number of residents that have found this training and are asking for this training. They really feel like the video is beneficial hearing from their peers about what their histories and experiences have been, and what keeps them out of receiving care," she said.

Bahnson says for some LGBTQ elders, it’s not a fear of the providers, but rather members of the community who grew up in a time when homosexuality was illegal. 

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KJZZ 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.