Looking after and valuing older people in our society is fundamental - especially as our population gets older - but it is by no means a simple task. Alongside physical well-being, there are emotional and mental health needs to consider, too. That means providing personalised care, designed around every individual.
This is something the team at Anchor take very seriously, and recently we've been working with Middlesex University on a project funded by Comic Relief to make sure the needs of LGBT people living in care homes across the country are being understood and met.
Worryingly, a Stonewall report into Life of British Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual peoples in later life in Britain has revealed that nearly half (47%) of LGB people would feel uncomfortable telling health and social care staff about their sexual orientation. And more than two-thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual people (70%) don't feel they would be able to be themselves living in a care home. Empirical evidence from the Stonewall report supports these fears, with a quarter (24%) of health and social care staff in the UK admitting to hearing colleagues make negative remarks about lesbian, gay or bisexual people.
One in three women and one in four men will need care at some stage in their life and with lesbian, gay and bisexual people over 55 less likely to have children they could be more reliant on professional care services as they get older. Moving into a care home means a change of environment and way of life which can be distressing. For all these reasons it's vital that the care being provided in the UK is as inclusive as possible.
So, what should care homes be doing? A good place to start is communication, to understand the problems LGBT people come across when they move into care homes. With this in mind, Anchor and Middlesex University developed an audit tool. This is being made available so all care providers can assess the level of inclusivity of LGBT people in their homes. Through a series of interviews with care staff, Middlesex University and Anchor were able to develop an action plan to improve the lives of LGBT people with care needs, creating a tailored approach for older LGBT individuals.
Another focus of this action plan is equal representation. Since working with Middlesex University, Anchor has pledged that we will have at least one LGBT champion in every care home, as well as continue running year-round activity programmes but incorporate the celebration of LGBT culture and events, creating an inclusive environment.
Educating staff is another key element in the action plan and something Anchor is already doing. We have set up an Equality & Diversity staff group and will be developing training sessions for staff. These create a more open environment where care home residents feel free to approach staff with concerns, without having to hide who they truly are.
This strategy will be implemented in Anchor's care homes across the country, and we hope to take away key learnings and share them wider in the sector so that we can celebrate and improve the lives of older LGBT people in care homes across the country.