By Eleanore Robinson
Imagine entering a care home and being unable reveal your sexuality, talk about past relationships, and be scared of the prejudices of staff and fellow residents.
This is often the experience of people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) community, who can find themselves forced back ‘into the closet’ when entering care for fear of being bullied or harassed. But initiatives are emerging to ensure that care homes are a place that members of this community feel comfortable being themselves.
Up to 6 per cent of the population identifies as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or other: statistically, this means most care homes will have at least one LGBT resident.
In June, Opening Doors London, which campaigns for LGBT rights, launched its Pride in Care quality standard. Care homes participating in the scheme can expect to achieve the required standard within a year at a cost of £2,000, and can display the Pride in Care kitemark for three years.
The kitemark is being piloted with three organisations: a care home group with 5,000+ beds, a mid-size operator and a small domiciliary care agency.
The process includes reviewing all policies and procedures and staff carrying out an online survey to flag-up any concerns. Jim Glennon, who helped develop the standard, says: “The online training is to help people understand what it is like to be 80 years old and gay. It gives us a sense of if they have read the material they have been given. The final step is to visit a home and talk to three staff members and at least a few clients”.
LGBT policy development
Feeling safe and secure is a top priority for the LGBT people, according to Glennon. And, best practice involves ensuring anti-harassment policies for staff and residents are clearly displayed. “Things need to be concrete”, he said, noting that high staff turnover in care homes can create gaps in LGBT policy induction or training.
Speaking at the launch of the Pride in Care standard, Care England chief executive Martin Green said: “When people get old, other people forget there is a life and identity behind them. We have got to move towards a personalised approach to care. That is central to delivering high quality care.”
Already some operators have grasped the commercial potential of personalised LGBT care. Sanjay Dhrona, managing director at The Close Care Home in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, is developing a LGBT-friendly care home. He expects the purpose-built home to open in Didcot at the end of next year, where everything, including the suppliers, will be chosen for their LGBT values.
Dhrona, who is gay himself, said: “A lot of people want to make diverse and inclusive homes but care homes can be scary places for LGBT people.
“We want to create a space where it is a very diverse community. It all depends on the culture of the business. We would like to have an open culture. It’s a home that can accommodate residents who can identify anywhere along the spectrum. It is about the awareness in the training. We do not sell bedrooms, we sell care that focuses on the individual.”
He believes that a gay man at the head of the care home group will set the tone but great leadership notwithstanding – the Close Care Home has won multiple awards, including a 2018 Care Home Award – there will be challenges in the day-to-day running. For example, dementia may cause an otherwise liberal person to adopt conservative attitudes from a previous time, for example, when being gay was illegal.
Unlike other LGBT exclusive developments – Tonic Housing is planning an LGBT care village in London and Manchester City Council has announced plans to develop an extra care scheme exclusively for LGBT residents – the new Close care home will be a mix of members from the LGBT community and heterosexual residents. Dhrona believes that LGBT-friendly homes should not be seen as niche as homes, for example, for Jewish people. He says: “I think the LGBT community is integrated into everyday life. I would not want to go into a home that was niche. We are going to make sure we explain that we are offering support and training for the community. It is saying it is normal. We want people to buy into what a great community looks like.”
For more information on Opening Doors London training and quality standard, send an email.