LGBT older people with dementia risk being forced back into the closet

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The government’s Dementia Strategy for England must include a “specific reference to LGBT issues”, the National Care Forum has warned.

Writing in The Guardian, Des Kelly, executive director of the forum, said LGBT people with dementia risk being failed by the care system and forced back into the closet.

Estimates from the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggest there are 1.2 million older gay people in the UK.

“Yet they are an invisible population and rarely acknowledged by service providers and commissioners”, Mr Kelly said.

“There is no specific reference to LGBT issues in the National Dementia Strategy, he continued.

“Given LGBT older people may be estranged from their relatives and lack family support, formal care is likely to be even more important than it is for their heterosexual peers.”

Mr Kelly added: “We know where some of the biggest challenges lie. For example, prejudice – current or historic – can affect how someone perceives and experiences support.

“While some lose their inhibitions due to dementia, others who have previously come out feel unable to be open about their sexuality or transgender status.

“Dementia causes anguish and confusion; this experience could be exacerbated as older people with the condition struggle to deal with negative perceptions of their sexuality or gender in residential care.”

There are approximately 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, with the number expected to hit a million within the next 10 years.