My partner, who is 65, has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Do most agencies support LGBT families?

In January 2011, the first Baby Boomers turned 65. The vast expansion of this aging population — the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — will put tremendous, unaffordable strains on government programs, such as Medicare and Social Security. Because the greatest numbers affected by Alzheimer’s disease are over 65, (1 in 6 women, and 1 in 9 men), there are many LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people in this generation that are largely hidden from view within care arrangements. Non-traditional relationships may leave the LGBT population isolated or estranged from traditional family caregivers.

Critical concerns, needs and issues of the aging LGBT population include: inability to care for themselves, becoming dependent on others, becoming sick or disabled, and becoming confused or getting dementia.

In Louisiana, 3.2 percent of the population is gay, lesbian or bisexual, estimating the population number around 148,015. According to a 2010 MetLife study, 57 percent of the LGBT boomers feel that Medicare will pay for their long-term needs, which is a false assumption.

The MetLife study reported that close friend relationships are extremely important for LGBT baby boomers, and there are a significant number of LGBT individuals who feel they have no one to rely on in an emergency and/or no idea who might serve as their long-term caregiver.

One of the goals established by the Administration on Aging National LGBT Resource Center, lgbtagingcenter.org, is to educate and assist these individuals in establishing workable long-term care plans. There is a specific need for LGBT organizations and financial institutions to play a vital role in educating the LGBT community about long-term care planning, preparing wills. It’s important for the LGBT person with Alzheimer’s to have contact with other gay people to support their identity and confidence in their journey.

Many agencies have official policies stating they do not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.

One of the best approaches in researching or finding services, however, is to contact friends or family members who are in similar circumstances. Referrals can be helpful in identifying those organizations or service providers that are most accepting and sensitive of the needs of the LGBT population.

Organizations listed as a “Safe Space,” and noted in its literature and front entrances, have gone through specific diversity training with employees and volunteers to indicate an open and accepting environment. Local and national LGBT organizations can be an important resource in locating supportive agencies. Check out lgbtagingproject.org; asaging.org; aoa.gov; and sageusa.org.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.