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Respect for LGBTI people in aged care needs to come from top down

Respect for LGBTI people in aged care needs to come from top down

A Ballarat woman praised the CEO of the company that owns the nursing home where her same-sex partner lives for acknowledging their long-term relationship and offering a double room if she also needs residential aged care.

Former teacher and psychotherapist, Anne Tudor, appeared at an aged care royal commission hearing in Melbourne enquiring into diversity issues.

Edie, Ms Tudor’s partner of 35 years, was diagnosed with dementia in 2010 and has been in residential aged care since September 2018. The pair had received Commonwealth home care support from 2014.

Ms Tudor said that when the CEO personally extended a welcome to her as Edie’s partner, she felt respect, acceptance and love.

‘And from that moment on, I knew that this was the right place for Edie,’ she said.

Respect for people in aged care who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex needed to filter down from the CEO and senior management of residential aged care organisations to all staff, Ms Tudor added.

‘The message has to filter to everybody that every single person there needs to be accepted for who they are and what they are and whatever their background is, whatever their culture is, whatever their belief systems are, that they will be given an opportunity to live in an environment that provides them with what they need right through to the end of their life,’ Ms Tudor said. ‘…We need to be celebrating diversity and not be frightened of it.’

More broadly, for aged care residents with dementia, being familiar with the staff who are providing intimate personal care is crucial.

‘…Edie is happy enough for a person to shower her and provide intimate personal care if she knows that person.  But if a complete stranger comes in and wants to take her to the shower, she is not comfortable with that,’ Ms Tudor told the commissioners at the hearing on 8 October.

Asked by Commissioner Lynelle Briggs what would make the lives of people with dementia in aged care happier, Ms Tudor responded that they needed to be treated with basic courtesy and respect, rather than assume ‘there’s nothing going on there’.

‘I wouldn’t sit on Edie’s bed without saying, “Do you mind if I sit on your bed?”. I wouldn’t walk into her room when I visit her without saying, “Can I come in?”,’ she explained.

The diversity hearings of the royal commission also inquired into the needs of aged care residents from non-English speaking backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, care leavers, veterans and the homeless.