June 11, 2015

Heroes of Pride: Alec Clayton

Every summer, LGBT people across the country step out during Pride season to honor who we are, celebrate the progress we’ve made, and re-energize ourselves for the battles ahead. Yet in the midst of all the revelry and marching, older people are often overlooked. This summer, SAGE is celebrating some lesser-known “Heroes of Pride” on our blog. 

AlecClayton-2014-05-01 While today’s hero, 72-year-old bisexual Alec Clayton, makes his home in Olympia, Washington, his accent reveals his southern roots. Born in Mississippi, Alec has deep experience as a community leader in the South as well as the Pacific Northwest—two very different regions that he feels connected to. Though Alec’s voice is gentle and his spirit is generous, he’s also a formidable advocate for social justice. 

Thanks for talking with me, Alec! Can you fill us in a bit on your personal story first?

I grew up in the Deep South and was closeted most of my life—in Mississippi in the 50’s and 60’s it wasn’t ok to be gay. In fact, I don’t think I came out to myself until I was in my late 20’s. My wife and I moved to Olympia Washington in 1988, and I work as a novelist and a freelance writer.

What drew you to LGBT activism?

The reason I got involved in LGBT issues is that 20 years ago last month our 17 year-old-son committed suicide after a gay bashing. He and his friends were attacked—three boys hit and kicked him. Not long after that another of his friends was also attacked for the same reason. At the time, he felt that was all he had to look forward to for the rest of his life, despite the fact that his family loved and supported him.

I’m so sorry for your loss. I wonder whether or not the pain eases over time, after a loss like that.

In a way it does. Because of that, we got involved in different LGBT organizations, and have built a new family that way.

Were you out to your son?

Yes I was. When he came out to my wife and said “mom I’m bisexual” she said “well so is your dad!”

That must have been reassuring for him to hear.

Yeah, it was. I hadn’t told him yet because it just hadn’t come up.

I think that’s so beautiful that you turned this tragedy into something so positive. That really takes courage!

We’re told that, yes. And my wife has written a story [about our son] which you can read online at gabiclayton.com.

What was the thought that motivated your activism after your son’s death?

It was about a month between his assault and his suicide. Right around that time Anna Schlecht, co-founder of SAGE Olympia, also a founder of Unity in the Community, pulled together an anti-hate rally at a local park. Our son and my wife and I spoke at the rally. And when I stepped down off the stage the president of the local PFLAG chapter asked me to speak at the father’s day meeting. So we went to the meeting, which wasn’t until after Bill died—when I agreed to speak it was before that happened—and we felt so welcome and supported there. I was president of the local chapter for 10 years, and we’re still active.

Right after it happened, my wife also wrote a story telling Bill’s story, and as a result of that we got invited to speak on television. We still do a lot [of public speaking on the subject].

What kinds of questions do kids ask you when you speak in schools?

The most common thing is, “How things have changed? Has it gotten better?”—which is a very complicated thing. The answer is usually yes and no. In many ways things have gotten better, DADT has been abolished, and [we have] gay marriage and anti-hate crime legislation. But there’s also been a lot of backlash and the reactionary forces have redoubled.

Do you feel encouraged by the current political climate?

I think so, yes. I say that with reservations because some of the more reactionary conservative forces have become so outspoken. I think they make a lot of noise, but they are a very small and vanishing group on its last legs.

What is the change you would love to see with regard to LGBT equality in your lifetime?

I’d like to see general acceptance and celebration of difference. Laws changing is good but the hearts and minds need to change. It’s happening; we see it in the younger people.

What about the older generation? What’s been your experience working with SAGE?

I see a lot of fear and confusion and loneliness. SAGE passed out surveys recently and when we were asked what we needed most, and they said social connections and activities.

It sounds like you have good community.

Yes! Olympia is a great community

Do you have family in Mississippi still? Have you been back recently?

About a year ago we went back for a reunion, which was my first time there in 17 years. It was enjoyable! It seemed like people there had come a long way in acceptance of LGBT people and of changes in the racial climate. Of course, that’s just within my relatives and friends.

That must have been comforting. You’re living in such a different community now!

Yes, it was intentional. It was such a repressive climate, in Mississippi. We lived there after we got married for 11 years and published an alternative paper and were active in progressive causes but we were in a small minority. But there was a lot of support too! Because all the progressive or liberal people tended to support each other. Now living in Olympia we feel like the whole town is in a larger bubble. But we have our share of problems here too. Just recently a cop shot two black men.

Were there demonstrations after the shooting?

Yes, there were a lot of spontaneous demonstrations. And the leadership of Unity in the Community, which I mentioned before, has been helpful. We had meetings to help calm the waters because there were some spontaneous actions both on the left and right and there’s potential for conflict.

Coming back to SAGE—how did you initially get involved? What’s new for SAGE Olympia?

I was part of the original founding group that met informally to plan, about 4 years ago. I’ve been on advisory committees and in unofficial leadership ever since. The main things we do right now are social activities including bingo, pool, a dance for elderly lesbians. We work in conjunction with a similar organization in Tacoma which isn’t too far away. In the past we’ve done film nights in conjunction with the local theater and we also do some diversity awareness trainings with different local groups, providers of healthcare, etc.

What motivates you to continue doing this work with the community?

Probably the thing that motivates me the most are my friends and my wife—the camaraderie from other people that are activists in the community. The work that we do is also our social life!

Sounds like a recipe for success!

Yes! It keeps me alive and it keeps me vibrant. 

-- Posted by Kira Garcia 

June 8, 2015

How Do We Take Care of Our Own?

As SAGE’s Director of Legacy Planning, I shape our efforts around planned giving. Generally speaking, these are contributions made as part of a larger individual strategy like drawing up a will, selling a business, or reducing taxes (ergo, a “planned gift”). While SAGE has been part of people’s legacies for more than 30 years, we’ve only just begun to fully educate our supporters about this type of planning.

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As a longtime estate planning attorney with a focus on the LGBT community , I’ve had lots of exposure to planned giving . But acting as a professional advisor on the outskirts of the development effort is not the same thing as being in the trenches. To help get me up to speed when I took this job, I sought out some information and resources.

One approach comes from a professor from Texas Tech University. Dr. Russell James has a unique background, having both a doctorate in neuro-anatomy and experience as a planned giving professional. He put the two together in studies of planned giving decisions and the areas of the brain activated by different conversations, looking to identify those which were the most promising. Simply put, James considers how our brains work in relation to philanthropic giving.

His book Inside the Mind of the Bequest Donor, suggests that planned gifts are inspired by a desire to make a meaningful impact—something that will “live beyond an individual’s death.” This in turn “requires a community. And it is the values of this community that provide the underlying framework that defines meaningfulness.”

This was music to my still untrained ears. If there’s anything we’ve got, it’s community. And we know that our community values its members, that we take care of our own. That was proven over and over again in our journey from Stonewall through AIDS to marriage equality.

And it was proven again just last week. We were notified of a gift made in memory of a SAGE program participant, with thanks “for all you did to make my brother’s life more enjoyable.” Another wrote of partner, “I know that Frank would have been grateful for the tremendous support I’ve gotten from SAGE since he passed away. So it makes sense that when we’re both gone, we can say thanks to SAGE with this gift.”

Legacy, as we regularly point out in our Successful Aging initiative, is no more than “how we live and what we give.” By their lives they’ve lived, our SAGE age clients and many of our supporters helped create the legacy of a strong community. With their gifts to SAGE, they’re also making a difference in the lives of their fellow travelers.

--Posted by Jerry Chasen, Director of Legacy Planning, SAGE

June 5, 2015

Pride! Work can suck it out of you…or fill you with it!

LH
Not every boss will be as nice!

Flashback to springtime, 2009: I’m standing in a conference room in downtown Chicago, stupid from Vicodin while my boss hurls wadded up paper at my head, over and over again. That was a huge "how did I get here?" moment. I mean, I knew I arrived at O’Hare that afternoon on Delta after an early morning root canal in New York and I was participating in a team building exercise designed to turn my boss into a human (her 360 degree review was so negative it was renamed the 666 degree review).

There are plenty of bad bosses out there (and there’s no guarantee the next one won’t be worse) so I stuck it out for eight years. Everybody else was great, lots of fun, really smart, and completely supportive and nurturing of LGBT employees. It’s a shame that everybody else was not my boss. Even my bad boss  (I don’t want to use her real name so I’ll just call her The Worst), The Worst, was an ardent LGBT ally. As a side note, however, The Worst was decidedly not a supporter of working women with children. “They think they deserve more time off than people without children!”

The point is, I was not proud of myself, my work or my company because everything was so tainted by The Worst. It was not enough that the organization was extremely progressive in terms of LGBT policies. I left.

That’s when I began my search for pride of work and pride of self. I drove around the USA for the better part of 2013, blogging, camping, hitting every gay bar in all 48-contiguous states. I was proud of what I was doing but I was essentially accelerating the process of becoming homeless, since no one was paying me to be a nomad with a WordPress site.

The obvious solution for finding an income-generating workplace that could fill me with pride was a car dealership. A little background: I’m a car fanatic. The dealer network is owned by a man who is both gay and Jewish, who supports many wonderful charities, so I thought his progressive ideas would trickle down to the rest of the staff.

Wrong. I heard plenty of cheap Jew jokes, within earshot of an enormous poster of a golden retriever hopping out of a Subaru Hybrid with his two mommies. I didn’t think an environmentally conscious inter-racial lesbian couple would appreciate this hate talk any more than I did. This time I didn’t wait eight years to leave.

The good news is, great work environments that will fill you with pride do exist. I’ve recently found such a place. I’m proud to work for SAGE because they’re serving the LGBT community, but mostly I’m proud to work for SAGE because everyone I have encountered has been professional, kind and supportive. Of course I was suspicious of being treated with respect at first but you do get used to it!

So where can you find a workplace to be proud of? The answer is: anywhere you are treated with dignity and as a valued human being, at all times, in all circumstances. You shouldn’t allow people to mistreat you because they also do things that are not horrible. Pride must extend beyond June--we each deserve it all year long, in all facets of our lives.

-- Jeff Stein, communications consultant, SAGEWorks

The thoughts and opinions above are those of the writer and not Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).

June 4, 2015

Heroes of Pride: Katherine Palmer

Every summer, LGBT people across the country step out during Pride season to honor who we are, celebrate the progress we’ve made, and re-energize ourselves for the battles ahead. Yet in the midst of all the revelry and marching, older people are often overlooked. This summer, SAGE is celebrating some lesser-known “Heroes of Pride” on our blog. 

The wide-open landscape of the southwest is home to today's hero, Katherine Palmer, a determined, energetic 73-year-old trans woman. As an LGBT activist for over 15 years, Katherine wastes no time. She's served as Board President of the Gender Identity Center of Colorado, Co-President of GenderPAC and Board President of PFLAG in her home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico--among many other roles. She has also lobbied for LGBT rights at both the national and state level. Perhaps most importantly for our purposes, Katherine is primarily responsible for bringing SAGE to Albuquerque, and currently serves as its Program Manager. 

KatherineThanks for talking with me, Katherine! Can you start us off with a bit of your personal story?

Well, I transitioned at age 58, in 1998.  I knew [I was trans] when I was young, hid it, and was later divorced because of it. When I retired from my career at IBM, I planned to work with Native Americans, but I decided to work with trans people instead.

Why did you decide to switch gears?

Well there was never really a term ‘transgender’ until about 1998, so I thought was only one in world. Then I went to the Gender Identity Center [GIC] and realized I wasn’t! So I got involved in that and jumped in full speed.

I wanted to reinforce that this wasn’t something to be ashamed of. I said "there’s nothing wrong with me, if you have a problem that’s your problem'. I got involved with the GIC and realized we were a minority that needed our voices heard. So I said ‘ok let’s go do it!’ I went to Washington DC and lobbied congress for ENDA.

You must’ve been so proud to do that!

Yes! I began to realize this was a national thing and I jumped in. I’m a strong believer in coalitions, I said, we can’t do this alone, we have to do this with others. I have also been very involved with PFLAG, which is wonderful because you have parents, family, friends and trans people, lesbians and gay men all in the same room!

What's so powerful about coalition building?

The thing that frustrates me within the LGBT community is that it's so localized.  I thought 'can’t we all work together?' and then I found SAGE and I said 'oooh! Here we go!'

Because everyone gets old! Aging is universal. 

Yes!

How did you start a SAGE chapter?

I contacted SAGE national and put together a committee. Our biggest problem is that we don’t have a physical space. So we went to Albuquerque Senior Services, and said ‘we’d like to have an LGBT presence here’ and they said ‘sure’. Albuquerque is unique. We passed a non-discrimination law in '03. We came within one vote of same sex marriage about 5 years before we got it nationally. 

So is your message or your goal primarily about tolerance, or something more?

No, it’s something more. My goal with PFLAG and SAGE is to get to a point where we don’t need it, because we’re treated like everyone else. I go to a statewide aging conference every year on behalf of SAGE, and I’m trans and I’m not "stealth”, but no one gives me any hassles, I’m just Katherine. 

It sounds your experience since coming out has been pretty positive.

Yes!

So you’re working on behalf of others who haven’t had it so easy is that right?

Yes, I see other people being abused or discriminated against and I just can't take that. I’m a firm believer that people are afraid of what they don’t understand. You teach, they learn, and the problem goes away. I'm not intimidated by them. My partner says, 'you go into the grocery store for a can of peas and these people are looking at you and you’re oblivious!' I have to remember sometimes that I’m trans.

What’s coming up for SAGE Albuquerque?

We have a golf tournament coming up in September. We’ve never done one out here, it’s a fundraiser for SAGE; we'll be offering prizes and awards. And then the aging conference is coming up this year, our topic will be LGBT older people and providers working together. We’re still growing and trying to find the LGBT seniors with strong support from the entire LGBTQ community.

So working with providers could really help you boost participation.

Yes! New Mexico is the 5th largest state in the country but we’re less than two million people in total, and half are in Albuquerque. Some people drive 30 miles to get to us. It’s not a very large group but it’s dedicated. Over the last 3 months, and our monthly meetings have all been new people—so something’s happening, the word’s getting out!

--Posted by Kira Garcia

June 3, 2015

SAGE Wins Three 2015 Communicator Awards!

TrophySAGE is proud to announce that it has received three 2015 Communicator Awards from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts (AIVA)!

The Communicator Awards is an annual competition honoring the best in advertising, corporate communications, public relations and identity work for print, video, interactive and audio. This past year, it received more than 6,000 entries from ad agencies, interactive agencies, production firms, in-house creative professionals, graphic designers, design firms, and public relations firms.

SAGE received a “Gold Award of Excellence” (AIVA’s highest honor) for our Out & Visible report. Out and Visible: The Experiences and Attitudes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Older Adults, Ages 45-75 was released in the fall of 2014. The study explores the aging realities of LGBT people, as well as their fears, beliefs, behaviors and aspirations in areas such as healthcare, finance and retirement, support systems, housing and sources of information.

We also received two “Silver Awards of Distinction” for our Successful Aging webpage and for our work with our partners at the Diverse Elders Coalition on Eight Policy Recommendations for Improving the Health and Wellness of Older Adults with HIV.

SAGE's marketing and communications have won widespread acclaim and numerous awards.  In 2014, it received an Award of Excellence and an Award of Distinction from the International Academy of the Visual Arts (IAVA). It also received two awards of distinction in 2012 from the IAVA, as well as a GLAAD Amplifier Award for excellence in advertising and social marketing. In 2010, it received a GLAAD Media Award in Advertising for Outstanding Social Marketing for its New York City campaign on caregiving support for LGBT older people. 

June 2, 2015

Let's Talk About Housing!

Where would you be without safe, secure housing? What if you couldn’t truly be yourself at home, fearing judgement or even abuse? How would you feel in the face of impending eviction? Many LGBT older people are faced with these questions every day.  With that in mind, SAGE has launched the first national initiative to address the LGBT older adult housing crisis.

In the coming months, we'll offer a series of 90-minute webinars to explore this complicated issue:

Training Housing Providers in LGBT Cultural Competency
June 25, 2015, 2:00 p.m. EST
Register Here
An interactive introduction to the culture, needs, and concerns of LGBT older adults, including why this elder population often is deterred from accessing needed services and supports.

Expanding Housing and Services for LGBT Older People
September 24, 2015 2:00 p.m. EST
Register Here
An outstanding panel of program leaders and providers discuss expanding relevant supports and  services to address the significant housing challenges faced by LGBT older people.

Making Senior Housing Policy LGBT-Friendly
November 5, 2015 2:00 p.m. EST
Register Here
A discussion about how advocates and the federal government can facilitate the creation of welcoming, affordable, and supportive housing for all LGBT older adults, regardless of income.  

We'll schedule further webinars in 2016. For more information about any of these events, email Serena Worthington, SAGE’s Director of National Field Initiatives, at sworthington@sageusa.org. 

Take part in one or all of these conversations, and join SAGE in the fight to secure safe, supportive, affordable housing for LGBT older people across the United States! 

-- Posted by Kira Garcia

 

 

May 29, 2015

Nothing Good Ever Comes From Speaking in Elevators

From banking to caregiving, it’s better to listen in order to get the job.

In the elevator last week on my way to a SAGEWorks workshop, How to Seek Employment within the Banking & Financial Industry, I noticed an elegant, mature, white gentleman with close cropped silver hair in a beautifully tailored dark blue suit and an expensive silk tie. I asked him if he will be teaching us how to get a job in banking. He replied, “Oh, no, I’m here to learn about that.”

A minute later I met the person who led the workshop, a Latino woman from JP Morgan Chase, Angelique Y. Pabon. My assumptions taught me I’m not immune to sexist and racist assumptions (so I guess I have something new to add to my LinkedIn profile).

Agelique_Bruce
Two typical stodgy bankers, Angelique Y. Pabon and Bruce Vecchio

Angelique and her colleague Bruce Vecchio were fun and wonderful…but of course you knew they would be when I mentioned banking and finance. Angelique mapped out where certain transferable skills will be of value, even if you’ve never been in finance before. Have you managed a construction project? You probably have what it takes to be a project manager in a bank’s facilities department. Were you an executive assistant to the head of a record label? Great, become the executive assistant to the head of collateralized debt obligations. I’m sure there’s a case to be made that music is a lot like repackaged debt

I worked in banking and financial services for 20 years and my colleagues, from the CEO down, were all much more supportive of LGBT-people than my colleagues at a New York City car dealership where I did a short stint. Despite the fact that the owner of the dealership is gay! Plus, they sell Subarus!

Beyond the industry-specific workshops, SAGEWorks also recently. brought together six panelists for a very special episode of Get Tips and Advice Directly from Employers Who Hire. Things got real.

Natasha Leath, Director of Business Development at The Good Kind Group, a recruitment firm, explained how the job interview begins in the elevator. After a workout one day, Natasha went back to her office to change so she was not wearing her usual business attire. The woman sharing the elevator with Natasha was cursing like a sailor at her babysitter, in full voice. Guess who was going to an interview at The Good Kind Group? Fortunately, Natasha is a good person and gave the woman another chance after she explained why it’s not valuable to act like the worst person in the world in public.

Panelists_Greet
It’s not often you get access to hiring managers so the employer panel was swarmed.


Another fascinating takeaway from the employer panel is how companies are forming to support unaddressed needs of the LGBT-community. Joe Fisher, co-founder and director of Renewal Care Partners, started his business to provide culturally competent care givers. Older LGBT-folks, who were out, are retreating back into the closet during their final days for fear of what less-than-progressive caregivers would think or do. Joe makes sure all of his company’s caregivers are there to care, not to judge. Imagine the alternative--you’re trying to watch Wheel of Fortune and your nurse starts throwing holy water at you!

For those of us looking for jobs, make sure you check out all the new services popping up to support LGBT-folks. And remember to mind your manners in the elevator.

-Jeff Stein, communications consultant, SAGEWorks

May 21, 2015

The High Cost of Not Being Authentic

Lying about who you are at work costs both money and happiness. It's true.

Arianna
Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, spoke at the conference about the importance of sleep and reducing stress at work. 

Earlier this month I attended Sodexo’s Quality of Life Conference in New York. Why would Sodexo, a company known in the U.S. mostly for cafeteria food, put on such a show? “Get with the program! You should know Sodexo is about more than cafeteria food," said Laura Schalk, Sodexo's head of press relations. "In this company we are evangelical about quality of life, and ensuring a great work environment so that employees feel motivated and valued – which links to issues like equality and work-life balance.”

Motivated and valued employees are nice but I went looking for gay stuff. The panel discussion “Gender Balance: How Can Women’s Success Benefit All” caught my eye. I went to find out if women are going to pull me along for the ride as they smash through the glass ceiling.

And that’s when I saw him, sitting at the dais, wearing a fitted gray suit with legs crossed, his muscular thighs straining against the delicate fabric. Kenji Yoshino, the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law. He had the type of biography that makes you feel like a loser who sleeps too much: “He was educated at Harvard, Oxford, and Yale Law School. He teaches in the areas of constitutional law, anti-discrimination law, and law and literature. He has published three books.”

Then Professor Yoshino mentioned having a husband and two children so I stopped fantasizing about our wedding and began to listen.

According to Professor Yoshino, women, LGBT-people, and all minority groups, are likely to “cover” at work in order to get along, conform and move ahead. Covering means changing behavior to mimic leadership, which is mostly straight white males. Women are urged by leadership to be more masculine. Then women are urged to re-cover when they act too masculine. And they say women are fickle.

Yoshino said he covered as a young professor at Harvard Law School after a seemingly well-meaning colleague told him he would do better there if he acted like a homosexual professional rather than a professional homosexual. I’m an amateur gay right now but hoping to go pro after Nationals.

So what’s the problem with making straight white men more comfortable besides the fact it’s 2015? Yoshino says covering costs cold hard cash. In a survey, 53 percent of employees said they felt pressured by leadership to cover. Of that 53 percent, 50 percent said it undermined their dedication to the organization. “Covering, or being inauthentic, has a high cost for an individual’s well-being and organizational performance.”

At the conference dinner later, several women who were not able to attend the gender balance panel asked me if there is a solution to covering. I flippantly suggested sending all straight white men to the moon (What's that old joke? If we can send one there...) Once I realized this was impossible, I apologized for my bad joke and told them I had not eaten and drank two martinis. Then I told them I’m going to leave it to the guy who went to Harvard, Oxford and Yale to fix the problem. He has some good ideas that you can read here.

For more about Sodexo’s Quality of Life Conference, go here.

-- Jeff Stein, Communications Consultant, SAGEWorks

May 19, 2015

Keys to Successful Aging

Keyboard-621830_640Like many New Yorkers in my generation, I’ve “grown up” reading Jane Brody’s Personal Health column in The New York Times.  So it’s no surprise to me that some of the most useful information I may come across about navigating the sometimes confusing paths of aging successfully comes from her suggestions.

For example, her recent column “As We Age, Keys to Remembering Where the Keys Are” provides some important guidelines on distinguishing common age-related cognitive decline and pathological symptoms of cognitive impairment.  Quoting AARP, she notes that “forgetting where you parked your car can happen to everyone occasionally, but forgetting what your car looks like may be cause for concern.”

She cites recommendations from the Institute of Medicine that increase chances of staying cognitively sound:

First, be physically responsible.  Any question about the consequences of physical deterioration on mental function has long been resolved—it does!  Physical responsibility includes, of course, being physically active.  No surprise there—we’ve been advocating regular exercise as a key part of any prescription for aging successfully.  It also makes getting the regular seven hours of sleep easier, which is also important.  And so is monitoring and moderating intake—moderate alcohol, low amounts of fat, sugar and cholesterol, etc.  All of this will help prevent and control cardiovascular risk factors—i.e., those risks that can precipitate dramatic cognitive decline through strokes and such.

But it’s equally important to treat the mind well.  If, due to depression, the mind isn’t treating you well, address it, get treated.  Continue to learn—reading, taking courses, learning new tasks that are rewarding and meaningful.  There’s lots of truth to “use it or lose it “ on the mental front as well as on the physical.  In another column, “For an Aging Brain, Looking for Ways to Keep Memory Sharp,” Ms. Brody touts the beneficial effect of certain training programs and computer games on improving cognitive skills in older people.  To be clear, she also cautions that many other pills, potions, and programs haven’t demonstrated any real benefit—all are not created equal—and provides suggestions for how to discern between the two:

“The Institute of Medicine has cautioned consumers to beware of phony or poorly tested products that claim to ‘prevent, slow or reverse the effects of cognitive aging.’ Consumers should ask: Was the product shown to improve ‘performance on real-world tasks?’ Are the claims supported by ‘high-quality research’ that has been ‘independently verified’?’ And, most important, how do the supposed benefits compare with those from actions like physical activity and social and intellectual engagement?”

As that quote’s last sentence suggests, staying engaged in social interactions—the “rewarding relationships and activities” we cite in our definition of Successful Aging—in and of themselves are valuable means to keep cognitive decline at bay. 

May 18, 2015

Time For New York to Support Those Giving Care

This was authored by Linda B. Rosenthal and Michael Adams and originally featured in Gay City News on May 15, 2015. Click here to read the original article.

When New Yorkers go home from the hospital, the health care system suddenly becomes very personal.

There may be complicated medication regimens to follow, injections to administer, bandages to replace, complex medical equipment to operate, and much more. In many instances, those tasks are up to the person whom patients trust most with their well-being — their caregiver.

The transition from hospital to home is a critical time for patients — especially for many in the LGBT community who may have fragile family support systems. And the potential burden on their caregivers can’t be underestimated.

Caring for a loved one — without pay or pomp — is a big job. The consequences of mistakes loom large. Yet more than four million New Yorkers do it every year — for older parents, spouses, partners, friends, and loved ones.

It stands to reason that if we want our loved ones well cared for at home, their caregivers must be given the proper instruction in how to provide that care.

That is why, with help from AARP, we’re working to make sure our state laws recognize the critical role caregivers play in our health system.

The CARE Act (Caregiver Advise, Record, and Enable) would allow hospital patients to designate a family caregiver and require hospitals to offer that caregiver instruction in and a demonstration of the tasks that they will be expected to perform at home post-discharge.

This bill reflects our understanding that the LBGT community (and the same holds true for many other communities) will receive the care they need if medical providers recognize the circles of family and friendship that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender New Yorkers have built.

That’s why the CARE Act (A.1323) would allow patients to designate whomever they choose as a caregiver — and why it requires hospitals to provide those caregivers the knowledge they need to follow the discharge plan and to be able to provide proper care at home and to access support services.

The fact is, LGBT people often face severe isolation as they age, since they are four times less likely to have children than other elders, twice as likely to be single and living alone, and much more likely to be disconnected from their families of origin.

The caregivers of LGBT elders are often isolated as well, since many are not part of a larger family network. This fragility of care and support for LGBT elders makes it especially important that medical providers recognize and support the caregiving relationships that exist for LGBT older people – their “families of choice.”

The CARE Act would be an important step forward by providing hospitals with an inclusive framework that recognizes the wishes and preferences of all kinds of families and caregivers, and that helps identify patients who are profoundly isolated.

We know from experience that LGBT caregivers often have limited access to LGBT-affirming services in their communities. The CARE Act addresses this issue as well, requiring that hospitals offer the caregiver and patient answers to their questions in a culturally competent manner and provide contact information for health care, community resources, and long-term services and supports necessary to successfully carry out the patient’s discharge plan.

The State Senate last month passed the CARE Act unanimously and the Assembly Health Committee quickly followed suit. But the bill still must clear the Assembly’s Codes Committee and the full house before going to Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign into law.

The governor proposed a similar “Caregiver Support Initiative” in his 2015 State of the State/Opportunity Agenda, so we are optimistic that he will sign the CARE Act once it reaches his desk.

This bill is critically important, and we will do all in our power to ensure that it passes into law this year. Let’s pledge to join together and give all caregivers the support they deserve.

Linda B. Rosenthal is the prime sponsor of the CARE Act in the New York State Assembly, where she represents the 67th District on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Michael Adams is the executive director of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).