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November 24, 2015

Caregiving: It's a Family Affair

As I think about November being Family Caregiver month, I'm reminded about my own family caregiver journey and what started my work in support of LGBT older adult advocacy. In October of 2005, my mother-in-law came to live in St. Louis, MO with me and my wife. Over the next three years we would experience the joys and challenges of caregiving. During this time our mother’s health began to steadily decline from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart and kidney failure. Her bedroom became a makeshift hospital room as we brought in home health nurses and eventually hospice.

 

Waylandcaregiving
Sherrill and her wife and family surround her mother-in-law.


Our greatest concern as we brought services into our home was ensuring that the organizations who worked with her were LGBT friendly. We feared that a homophobic nurse might enter our house, recognize her caregivers were lesbian, and cause harm to our mother. But how would we know if the providers were safe and welcoming? There were no LGBT friendly older adult agencies in St. Louis at the time or referral networks we could call. Luckily for us, the first home health agency we hired immediately recognized that we were a loving couple caring for our mother and treated us, and most importantly our mother, with the dignity and respect she deserved.

It was through this journey of family caregiving that my wife and I realized, if we have this concern then other LGBT caregivers are also facing these same fears and concerns. This journey led us to start a SAGENet affiliate–SAGE of PROMO Fund (formerly SAGE Metro St. Louis)–to help ensure that LGBT older adults and caregivers had a place to call for support.

As the new SAGE Manager of National Projects, I invite you to visit the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging website and our Caregiver Resource page. Here you will find a number of resources that will help navigate the family caregiver journey. You will also find listings by state of local and national resource organizations that may be of assistance to you as you provide care and support to a loved one. 

 

Caregiving is one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences that you may encounter. We hope the resources we have provided are helpful and that you know you are not alone in this journey. During the month of November and every month, we honor and celebrate YOU, our family caregivers!

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