‘We treat them all the same’: the attitudes, knowledge and practices of staff concerning old/er lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans residents in care homes
The distinct needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) residents in care homes accommodating older people have been neglected in scholarship. On the basis of a survey of 187 individuals, including service managers and direct care staff, we propose three related arguments. First, whilst employees’ attitudes generally indicate a positive disposition towards LGBT residents, this appears unmatched by the ability to recognise such individuals and knowledge of the issues and policies affecting LGBT people. Statements such as, ‘We don’t have any [LGBT residents] at the moment’ and ‘I/we treat them all the same’ were common refrains in responses to open-ended questions. They suggest the working of heteronormativity which could deny sexual and identity difference. Second, failure to recognise the distinct health and social care needs of LGBT residents means that they could be subject to a uniform service, which presumes a heterosexual past and cisgender status (compliance with ascribed gender), which risks compounding inequality and invisibility. Third, LGBT residents could be obliged to depend largely on the goodwill, knowledge and reflexivity of individual staff (including people of faith) to meet care and personal needs, though such qualities were necessary but not sufficient conditions for inclusion and no substitute for collective practices (involving commitment to learn about LGBT issues) that become integral to care homes’ everyday functioning. A collective approach is key to advancing inclusion, implementation of legal rights to self-expression and securing equality through differentiated provision.