Project Description

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Caregiving

When a loved one has a change in health and ability, it can be scary.  You may find yourself acting as their caregiver.  Being a caregiver, may create feelings of stress and loneliness. If you or your loved one is a member of the LGBT community you may face additional stressors during this difficult time.

Below you will find common questions and concerns of LGBT caregivers.  The answers will help you with finding support in your area.

Q: I need some help for my loved one.  How can I tell if a service or program is open to working with LGBT families? 

  • In cities with large gay and lesbian populations, public and private programs are more likely to have experience with the LGBT community.
  • In areas where programs have fewer chances to work with LGBT, it can be difficult to figure out if an agency will be supportive.
  • Services may differ in the way they define a family.
  • Some programs may consider a family to include partners, friends, and individuals who live together and provide support to one another.
  • One of the best ways to find help is to check with friends who have been through similar things.
  • Local and national LGBT groups can be another way to find local programs that are supportive.
  • Larger cities may have LGBT-specific medical clinics focused on gay and lesbian health.

Q: What help can I get from state and federal programs that help caregivers? 

  • The way they address LGBT issues may be different from program to program.  Each state has a Medicare program that may pay for services to help caregivers.
  • Some examples of those programs are adult day care and in-home help.
  • It will be easier to deal with Social Security and Medicaid if the care receiver has legally assigned you to act on their behalf.  If this is not legally established, it can be difficult for you to communicate about your loved one with these agencies.

Q: If one of us becomes ill and needs care from the other, does the Family and Medical Leave Act provide us with any job protection?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not cover unmarried partners. With the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, married couples in states that recognize same sex marriage may qualify for FMLA.  If you live in a state that does not recognize your marriage, you may not qualify.  Keep in mind that many of these rules are evolving.  Also, many private employers offer the same policies to partners as they do to married employees.

Q: Are there steps we should take to have our wishes followed if either of us becomes unable to physically or mentally make decisions? 

It is important to create a legal document that states your wishes in the event that you become disabled. This document should clearly designate who you want to handle your financial and health care decisions.

Q: Now that my partner’s health is very poor, we’re worried that if we “come out” to a community agency, we will be discriminated against.

This is one of the most sensitive and important questions you can face. How you move forward may depend on whether state and local laws where you live protect LGBT individuals. You may start by telling a trusted provider or you may raise concerns only if your needs are not being fully met.

It is important to have the correct legal documents in place before a loved one becomes ill. As the person with legal authority over decisions, you do not need to define your relationship. Keep in mind that medical professionals may need legal documentation of your role before they provide you with information.

Resources

Family Caregiver Alliance

180 Montgomery St., Ste. 900
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 434-3388
(800) 445-8106
Web Site: www.caregiver.org
E-mail: info@caregiver.org

LGBT Caring Community Online Support Group

Gay and Lesbian Medical Association

www.glma.org/home.html

National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

870 Market St. Suite 570
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 392-6257
www.nclrights.org

The only national legal organization with a primary focus on lesbians and their families. NCLR also advocates on behalf of other groups in the LGBT community. Main program areas are family law, youth rights, immigration and asylum and transgender rights.

A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples, Denis Clifford, Frederick Hertz & Hayden Curry,
2002, 11th edition, Nolo Press, 950 Parker St., Berkeley, CA 94710, (800) 728-3555.
www.nolopress.com