By Kathleen LaTosch

More than ever, those who are caregivers for others need support.  Did you know that a recent study showed more than one-third of caregivers continue to provide care even when they are also in poor health?  More than a quarter of American families are caring for someone over the age of 50.

Furthermore, LGBT people are more likely to be caregivers for others – for parents, significant others, “chosen family” members, siblings and more.  According to an AARP report in 2015, 9 percent of caregivers self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender – nearly three times the rate of self-identification in other, broader-community surveys such as the 2012 Gallup Poll where only 3.4% self-identified as LGBT. 

For LGBT older adults – for both the caregiver and the one receiving care – issues related to caregiving are compounded by a number of additional factors.  According to the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, LGBT people are:

·        Twice as likely to age as a single person;

·        Twice as likely to live alone;

·        Three to four times less likely to have children to support them.

It’s especially important for LGBT people to be aware of the supports available to them when caring for another.

About LGBT Caregiving

Whether you are caring for an LGBT older adult or if you are an LGBT person caring for another, there are supports available to you. 

·        Guide for Caring for an LGBT Older Adult.  This guide examines the issues that arise in LGBT caregiving, as LGBT individuals may encounter special challenges whether they are acting as caregivers or are the ones in need of care. It also provides a legal document checklist that reviews the function of various important health care documents, such as a health care proxy, living will, and financial power of attorney.  http://www.lgbtagingcenter.org/resources/resource.cfm?r=431

·        LGBT Caregiving Facts.  This informational page was created by the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging and provides a good overview of important information to consider if you are an LGBT Caregiver.  http://www.lgbtagingcenter.org/resources/resource.cfm?r=2

General Caregiving Resources in Michigan

SAGE Metro Detroit has been working hard to train local service providers to offer LGBT-affirming and respectful service.  In 2016 alone, SAGE Metro Detroit has provided training to representatives from over fifty different aging service providers serving Macomb, Oakland and/or Wayne Counties. 

We are also in the process of revising the Rainbow Resources Guide for LGBT Older Adults – a guide that lists agencies that agree to provide respectful and non-discriminatory treatment for LGBT older adults and seniors.  We anticipate this guide being completed this fall.

Beyond the efforts of SAGE Metro Detroit, LGBT-specific aging and caregiving resources are limited.  However, there are many resources available to caregivers throughout the region. 

The Area Agencies on Aging.  Known also as the AAAs, these agencies are funded by the State of Michigan to provide information and referrals for those in need of aging and disability information and services.  Some services may be free to those who qualify.  All of our three Area Agencies on Aging in Southeast Michigan are trained to handle LGBT-related calls with care and sensitivity.  The three Area Agencies on Aging covering Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland Counties are as follows:

·        Detroit Area Agency on Aging – covering Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Harper Woods and the Grosse Pointes: call 313-446-4444 or visit http://detroitseniorsolution.com/

·        The Senior Alliance – covering Southern and Western Wayne County, call 800-815-1112 or visit http://www.aaa1c.org/

·        AAA1-B – covering Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw Counties, call 800-852-7795 or visit http://www.aaa1b.org/

Five-Series Class on Caregiving.  AARP Michigan offers a free five-class series for caregivers which covers a range of topics, including: record keeping, caregiver stress reduction, financial security, and finding livable communities.  Information about AARP Michigan’s caregiving seminars is available at aarp.org/mi or by calling 866-227-7448 toll-free.

Are you caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or memory loss?  Creating Confident Caregivers (CCC)™ is an educational training program for family members who are caring for a person with a dementia related illness, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. The CCC™  program has been proven to reduce caregiver stress by providing caregivers with useful tools and information.  This program is available by calling any of our three local Area Agencies on Aging.

Online Resources

AAA1-B Caregiver Resources.  The AAA1-B has a full folder of web resources available to caregivers, including:

·        A caregiver self-assessment test to gauge stress levels: http://www.aaa1b.org/caregiver-resources/caregiver-self-assessment/

·        A description of strategies that other caregivers have found helpful like respite care, adult day care and home modification / injury prevention strategies: http://www.aaa1b.org/caregiver-resources/strategies-that-work-dementia/

·        A list of a variety of services that are available: http://www.aaa1b.org/caregiver-resources/available-services/

Family Caregiver Alliance.  This online resource offers caregiver support groups, information and advocacy to caregivers.  Visit them online at https://www.caregiver.org/

Online Caregiver Support Coordinating Tool – LotsaHelpingHands.com.  This online tool provides a handy caregiver-focused Help Calendar, which enables members to schedule and sign up for tasks that provide respite for the caregiver including meals for the family, rides to medical appointments, and visits. Members can also communicate with one another through message boards, post personal blogs, share photos, and send well wishes to the family. And Coordinators can safely store and retrieve vital information for the family – from medical and health records to financial and legal documents.

Informational sites / articles for Caregivers:

·        National Alliance for Caregivers: http://www.caregiving.org/

·        National Family Caregivers Association: http://caregiveraction.org/

·        Preparing to be a Caregiver – http://www.michiganhomecareguide.com/about-caregiving/preparing-to-be-a-caregiver/

General LGBT Older Adult Support & Socializing

In collaboration with SAGE Metro Detroit, the following activities and supports are in place to serve LGBT older adults living in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties:

·        New!  Club 45+ – provides a place to socialize and hang-out with other LGBT older adults. Fun, friendship, flirting, and learning for people who are “45 years young and better” and their friends and loved ones are invited to participate.  Meets monthly at Affirmations in Ferndale beginning October 20th – contact Lilianna Angel Reyes at  lreyes@goaffirmations.org.

·        Senior Koffee Klatch – meets Wednesday afternoons at Affirmations in Ferndale: http://goaffirmations.org/programs-services/support-discussion-groups

·        Detroit Elder Project – meetings monthly on Thursday evenings at Hannan House in Detroit, contact Cornelius Wilson by email: belcrest5440@yahoo.com.