Never Too Late - August 2022

Visibility Matters

The Challenges of Dying at Home for LGBTQI+ Older Adults

By Sarah Bahnson , PCOA LGBTQ Community Liaison What makes for a “good death?” For many, it means being at home and receiving compassionate comfort care as the body undergoes the difficult work of dying. Around 80% of Americans report wanting to die at home, and yet only 20% do die at home. (Stanford Medicine) My father-in-law, Wally, had the privilege of receiving this kind of death. Surrounded by his wife, three children, their spouses, and two grandchildren, Wally was able to get the care he needed at home. Like many others, my family did not realize that “hospice” is not a place to receive hospice care or even a slew of professional caregivers and nurses who join the round-the-clock death watch, administering pain medication, Arizona Senior Pride celebrating, supporting and uniting LGBTQI+ older adults 520-312-8923;; All in-person events require masks and vaccinations, bring your card. helping meet hygiene needs, and doing the heavy lifting. No. Hospice is frequently a set of supplies and support for informal caregivers. Wally was able to die comfortably at home because he had family members that were willing and able to provide his

On-going events: Registration is required for attendance - GBTQI+ Mens Loss Group ; weekly on Tuesday; 1:30–3pm; in-person Elder Discussion/Support Group ; second Saturday; 1:30–3pm; in-person Southern Book Club ; third Wednesday; 2–3:30p; on Zoom and working well. What happens to a person when there is no informal support like a spouse or children? 60% of Americans die in hospitals, and 20% die in skilled nursing facilities. (Stanford Medicine) care. This was no easy task. While done with love, it meant jobs were put on hold, sleep came with irregularity, and the entire family experienced the brain fog that is common among the grieving. Not every family is able to drop everything and deliver that level of care, not only to the dying but to each other. In my professional life, I often relay the statistic that LGBTQ older adults are twice as likely to be single and living alone, and four times less likely to have children. (SAGE) I help aging care providers understand that enlisting informal support for this community to meet their aging goals may be more difficult than in other communities. This statistic has a different weight to me now that I have seen how challenging the process is for everyone, even when all the support imaginable is in place

Gathering in Himmel Park ; third Saturday; 10–11:30am; in-person Walk and Roll - Enjoy an outdoor activity with friendly people; third Tuesday; time will vary; in-person The reliance upon informal structures in aging care leaves LGBTQI+ older adults with difficult choices before them. While there are no clear answers, there is help. Completing advanced directives and carefully thinking through values and wishes around dying can be one of the ways LGBTQI+ people can prepare for the inevitable. For assistance with completing Advance Directives, contact PCOA’s Helpline (520) 790-7262 or Southern Arizona Senior Pride Nowhere near the number of Americans that want to die at home are afforded the opportunity. I am so grateful that my father-in-law received the death that he wanted. But he is exactly the sort of person the aging care system was built to support. And as much as my family provided his care with love and a smile, it was stressful. Hospice workers came only every few days, Wally received a bath once a week, and substantial pain management was difficult to obtain, and only because of the fierce advocacy of his children.

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August 2022, Never Too Late | Page 28

Pima Council on Aging

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