19 March 2019

Education, communication and awareness

The Ageing in Diversity Action Group explores the intricacies of care for the LGBTI community.

The Ageing in Diversity Action group is made up of LGBTI seniors and representatives from Brisbane-based care groups in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.

The group meets twice a month to discuss awareness strategies for care providers and Support Professionals. They focus on improving service provision and in-home service practice for people who identify as LGBTI.

By identifying the skills that support agencies need to equip their workforces with, the overarching goal is to create a comfortable and safe care environment for people who identify as LGBTI.

Susanne Jones, owner of Just Better Care Brisbane North and CBD, joined the Ageing in Diversity in Action group to learn more about those over the age of 65 who identified as LGBTI. Her goal was to educate herself and her team on how to provide care of the highest standard.

“It’s about inclusion and aligning our organisations through consistent, respectful treatment,” she explained.

Susanne says the seniors who identify as LGBTI are invaluable group members. They are active and vocal in meetings and offer a lived experience perspective that can be difficult to obtain outside of the group setting, especially from older people who identify as LGBTI.

“This age group has seen such a huge scope of discrimination. It’s understandable that they may not be as comfortable speaking about their experiences as younger generations may be,” Susanne said.

“They are a huge source of information. We have much to learn from them.”
According to the Australian Department of Health and Welfare, accessing appropriate services remains difficult for many older LGBTI Australians.

Susanne explained that fostering a safe and open atmosphere within the group leads to the best insights into improving inclusive support. One example is the impact of language and behaviours that can be unintentionally isolating to a customer.

“If we have questions, we ask them the questions, and sometimes they’ll tell us that we’re wrong. But in order to learn, it’s important to be able to ask – that’s what is going to help us provide better support to the LGBTI community,” she said.

Susanne said she’s learned that education and awareness are key to ensuring respect and an understanding of any tensions that might arise when a person who identifies as LGBTI enters aged care or makes a request for support.

Her aim is to have an intuitive process that isn’t forced on staff or customers, but instead comes naturally through education and awareness.

“I just want our staff to understand how language and behaviours impact how comfortable and safe someone feels, especially if we are in their home,” she explained.

Susanne has learned a lot during her time with the Ageing in Diversity Action group.

“Listening to seniors who identify as LGBTI share their own experiences has taught me that it’s about having an attitude that never assumes. You just can’t know what any one person has been through, or what best serves them,” she said.

“Now my attitude is, I can’t know what you need, but if you need to talk, I will listen to you and do everything I can to help.”