A new study from Rush University Medical Center has revealed LGBTQ+ residents, in long-term care, are concerned about healthcare discrimination.

The study, published in the journal Clinical Gerontologist, calls for a “dramatic, systematic change” to ensure the correct protection for LGBTQ+ residents in assisted care.

“In [long-term care] settings, LGBTQ+ older adults are forced to navigate a healthcare system that assumes heterosexuality and gender conformity amongst providers who are poorly trained to care for their specific needs,” according to Rush University Medical Center study.

The new study also suggests staff within healthcare facilities should undertake training specific to the LGBTQ+ community such as educations of a diverse range of LGBTQ+ identities and needs.

By creating an environment supported with the appropriate knowledge and care, it will ensure that LGBTQ residents do not “only exist in long-term care settings, but are a heterogenous community with individual needs and desires.”

In doing so, the study argued, the integration of inclusive policies will prevent possibilities of discrimination or unequal healthcare experience.

The study reiterates the importance of fair and equal healthcare as the number of LGBTQ+ adults and elderly continue to grow.

It is estimated the number of LGBTQ+ people 65 and older worldwide will fall between 1.6 billion and 2 billion by 2050, according to the study.

Data shows that LGBTQ+ older adults are more likely to face challenges such as living alone, being socially isolated and face less family support.

As a result, the study argues, protective policies are necessary to help reduce these risks and to offer healthcare and living support that does not neglect the elderly.

Sherrill Wayland, director of national education initiatives for SAGE, highlights the importance of ensuring elders do not fear of discrimination and, instead, stresses the importance of creating an inclusive community.

“Safe and welcoming long-term care communities require an intentional commitment to inclusivity and ongoing cultural awareness,” Wayland told McKnight’s Senior Living.

The Rush University Medical Center study reveals their data confirms that long-term care health facilities can be “subpar” and “even damaging, forcing an entire generation back into the closet during a time of great need.”

Wayland agrees that urgent change is required to ensure LGBTQ+ friendly policies are available alongside the necessary education and cultural staff training.

“We need to provide opportunities, like SAGECare and the LEI, to these facilities who are ready to ensure that older LGBTQ people can live their authentic lives and age with dignity and respect,” Wayland said.

“In addition, passing the Equality Act would go a long way in ensuring that federal nondiscrimination protections are provided for LGBTQ elders and the entire LGBTQ community.”