What's Different about LGBT Caregiving?


What's Different about LGBT Caregiving?


I have to admit, I have had a difficult time writing these past few weeks. "The Little One” continues to excel now that we are settled in South Florida. While there have been a couple of flare ups recently with his esophagus, all in all, his progress continues to exceed expectations. We are most thankful.

While reconnecting with a good friend of mine here in South Florida, we started a conversation in regards to caregiving. As a PhD and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), my friend is a trusted advisor who just happens to be straight, but not narrow. :)

One morning over breakfast he asked me, ”What exactly is different about LGBT caregiving?” A very profound question that is easy to answer, yet difficult to explain. “Caregiving in and of itself is the same for every couple, you simply care for the one you love. The difference for the LGBT caregiver is when we have to interact with systems outside of our home that are out of our control.”

I continued on with an example so that my friend could better understand my position. (Speaking to my friend now) Consider both of us arriving at the hospital emergency room as caregivers: You are attending to your wife, me attending to my partner. The furthest thing on your mind on the way to the hospital is how will you, as the husband, will be accepted by the hospital staff.  

On the other hand, when we walk into the hospital there is always the aspect of doubt lurking behind those doors"What is the nature of your relationship" is a commonly asked question when two individuals of the same sex appear on the scene. You walk in with your wife, the staff and attendants at the hospital presuppose that you are a married couple.

We on the other hand are constantly in fear of losing access to the one that we care for and love. I doubt you travel with your marriage license or Power of Attorney on a regular basis in order to prove your relationship in these professional settings? I never leave the house without a copy of all our legal documents. Even with the legal documents, that does not guarantee acceptance as often times we will have to deal with an employee’s individual bias and bigotry.

It was at that moment that a ‘light bulb’ went off in my friend's head. ”I completely understand the issue about marriage equality now.” The conversation continued on as it relates to social security, benefits, the entire, housing, pension, etc. (I will be blogging about the marriage equality issue later this week.)

What this conversation demonstrated to me was that when you put a face to an issue, you have a better chance of understanding the issue at hand. This is exactly what happened with my friend. What was foggy now was clear. All it took was a clear, everyday example to help turn the light bulb on. It was nice to teach a PhD a trick or two, but we have a long way to go with this important issue that faces our society and aging population today.

You see…We might have cancer, but cancer does not have us!

For more of Chris's perspective on this topic, read We Are All in the Same Caregiving Ship

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