What's Different about LGBT Caregiving?

Chris MacLellan

What's Different about LGBT Caregiving?

Chris MacLellan

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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Chris MacLellan

I appreciate your response and while everyone situation is different, I feel your frustration. \r\n\r\n In an earlier blog post I wrote \"As part of an LGBT intergenerational couple, I have, on occasion, observed discrimination in our health care system. Here again, personal political preferences may need to be deferred in favor of pragmatism because I am in the role of caregiver. Successfully addressing and focusing solely on the needs of my partner is paramount. There will be plenty of time to step up and do what is politically right once I have insured his proper care.\" \r\n\r\nIt is unfortunate when bias plays a role in any part of life, especially when care-giving is concerned. I know your heart is in the right place!


Chris, I am so glad The Little One is making good progress, and that you've been able to put those rough spots behind you.\n\nI agree with Denise that all family caregivers would do well to carry their legal documents with them. I keep a legal/medical records totebag in the trunk of my car and also carry the documents with me on a flash drive.\n\nMy partner and I have been lucky here, knock on wood. During her two inpatient hospitalizations, I was not only granted access but told I could stay beyond regular visiting hours; and we live in a conservative county. I believe my holding POA was central to that access, however.\n\nYouTube has an excellent series of videos, ”Caregiving for LGBT Families,” from Senior Services in King Co., ”the most comprehensive non-profit agency serving older adults and their loved ones in Washington State”: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL07F433FFC6B49E8F&amp;feature=plcp\n\nThanks also to Roaring Mouse for this link to “Caregiving in the Shadows: LGBT Caregiving and the TED Awards” by Jamie Huysman, Psy.D., L.C.S.W., C.A.P.\nhttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-in-the-recovery-room/201202/caregiving-in-the-shadows\n\nDr. Loren A. Olsen addresses LGBT caregiving in his book <i>Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight</i>. He has an excellent resources page at http://www.magneticfire.com/


Hi Chris--Such a sweet picture of The Little One. :)\r\n\r\nIn 2010, President Obama issued a memorandum calling for new rules for hospitals participating in Medicare or Medicaid relating to the right of patients to designate visitors and surrogate decision-makers. (More here: http://www.m40.siteground.biz/~caregiv6/2010/04/obama-requests-new-hospital-rules-for-patients-rights/). I wonder if this has made a difference at all??\r\n\r\nI love the question your friend asked and the opportunity to educate that question provided. \r\n\r\nI would just add that I think all family caregivers, regardless of the relationship to their caree, carry their durable POAs; without them, you can be in heap of trouble.