Training Day: National Resource Center Teaches LGBT Cultural Competence

By Meyer, Hilary | Aging Today, September/October 2012 | Go to article overview

Training Day: National Resource Center Teaches LGBT Cultural Competence


Meyer, Hilary, Aging Today


There are approximately 2 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders in America-a number expected to double in the next 15 years. LGBT elders face a complex set of issues when they need to use services from providers in the aging network; many providers may underestimate how being LGBT can impact a person's life experiences. Their commonly used reasoning, "We don't pay attention to sexual orientation or gender identity because we treat everyone the same no matter what," while not rooted in discriminatory animus, can have unfortunate consequences for LGBT elders.

We must keep in mind there are countless cultures under the LGBT acronym that cut across sexual orientation, gender, race, ethnicity, religion and other identities, and that an agency's competency related to a person's sexual orientation or gender identity might have no bearing on its overall competency. Whether an agency can truly be culturally competent, and what that means, is up for frequent debate among community advocacy groups. I use the term "cultural competency" here to describe an agency in which the staff is able to identify and address the needs of a particular group, specifically LGBT elders.

Partnerships, Teams Drive Cultural Competence Effort

In 2010, the U.S. Administration on Aging funded SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) to establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. SAGE is the lead partner on the grant and 14 national organizations, including ASA, contribute in other ways, with training, education and as liaisons to other minority groups. There's also a team of certified trainers across the country. The primary goals of the effort are to educate aging service providers on the needs of LGBT older adults, sensitize LGBT organizations to the needs of their aging constituents and provide information to LGBT older adults and their caregivers on issues of relevance to them as they age.

With a nationwide network of trainers ready to spring into action at the request of local agencies, the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging trains organizations using a collaboratively written cultural competence curriculum with case studies, work with partners and group discussions.

One sample training module includes groups of four to five attendees working together on a case study about an LGBT person. The group determines the person's key issues, how they relate to the treatment that person would receive from the trainee's agency and ideas for what the trainee could do to make their agency's programs more inclusive. Center staff also provide presentations and informational sessions to agencies looking to research larger LGBT issues as a first step toward a fully LGBT-inclusive agency

Cultural Competence in Kentucky

Among the agencies that have made a substantial effort toward competency is the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency (NHOA) of the Bluegrass, in Lexington, Ky. Serving nearly 4,800 long-term-care residents in nursing homes, family and personal care homes across 17 counties in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, the NHOA was created to provide advocacy services to elders using the Administration on Aging's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program as the authorizing framework and model. …

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