Rainbow Resource Guide Gives Older Adults Options

By Crystal A. Proxmire

"People need to have LGBT friendly resources. As we age, many of us have to depend more on others for help. People in the community are less likely to have family, less likely to have children. They may feel more vulnerable in general, and they may have fears like being mistreated in their own homes by people that come to help them, or fear of having to go back in the closet to receive care," explained Attorney Jay Kaplan who works for the ACLU and is part of the LGBT Older Adult Coalition.

The Coalition recognized these fears and needs and has spent the last two years looking for ways to address them. They've done trainings with service providers, taken part in conferences aimed at meeting older adult needs, and they have come up with a great new guide to help seniors find competent service providers.

The guide is called The SE Michigan Rainbow Resource Guide for Older Adults, and the first edition went live on their website Jan. 24. The 29-page book lists providers of many services that elders in the community may need.

There are the obvious categories like home care providers, estate planning, aging advocacy agencies, healthcare and holistic healthcare. But there are also professionals one might not think of until they are needed, such as home and auto repair, pet care, real estate agencies, computer repair and moving/relocation services.

"When you are inviting someone into your home, like a furnace repairman for example, you want to know that who you are is not going to be an issue," Kaplan said.

Kathleen LaTosch of the LGBT Older Adult Coalition helped organize the development of the guide, using an older document called Modern Family Guide as a jumping off point. Working with students from the University of Michigan School of Social Work and other dedicated volunteers, the Coalition was able to not only assemble the list, but verify its contents.

"We wanted to make sure that providers in the book really are LGBT affirming," she said. "We hope that providers will want to be part of this guide and see it as a good marketing opportunity, but we also want to make sure they are treating everyone fairly."

LaTosch said providers were questioned about having nondiscrimination polices and other policies to see if they truly are inclusive. She said many of the providers are active participants in the LGBT Older Adult Committee, and have gone above and beyond to reach out to the community.

Lynn Feinberg, Account Executive, Arcadia Home Care & Staffing is among the dozens of care providers listed in the guide. "Arcadia provides caregivers for individuals who may need services such as light housekeeping, grocery shopping, meal preparation, laundry, transportation to appointments, companionship, personal care and more. We can offer assistance after surgery as well as with injuries and chronic or acute illnesses," Feinberg said.

Arcadia is a Michigan-based national company, headquartered in Southfield. Feinberg works from their Birmingham office, which is one of 50 locations across the country, including nine in Michigan. All employees are screened and trained to be inclusive.

"Our staff has received cultural sensitivity training for the LGBT Community through the Area Agency on Aging 1B," Feinberg said. "This training provides us the tools to deliver supportive care in a warm and welcoming manner. It is important that people feel safe with our caregivers. We understand we are guests in our clients' homes and therefore, do everything in our power to earn their trust and keep it.

"Arcadia recognizes the importance of being included in the guide because there are a number of seniors in this particular community that may not have the support of family, friends or neighbors should they need care in their home."

The {URLSE Michigan Rainbow Resource Guide for Older Adults is available online at http://lgbtolderadults.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/se-michigan-rainbow-resource-guide-for-older-adults.pdf}, and print editions will be available at Affirmations, KICK and other LGBT gathering spaces. It will be updated as often as necessary to provide as many resources as possible.

About the Coalition

The LGBT Older Adult Coalition was formed in 2010. It is a collaboration of people and organizations in southeastern Michigan who are working to establish effective programs and services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults. It is hosted by the ACLU of Michigan and is supported by a grant from the HOPE Fund.

Participating representatives attend from the ACLU of Michigan, Adult Well-Being Services, Affirmations, Area Agency on Aging 1-B, KICK, Citizens for Better Care, The Jim Toy Community Center, Michigan Office of Services to the Aging, Oakland Family Services, Optimal Care Inc, and The Village of Redford.

Meetings are open to all interested parties and are generally scheduled for the 3rd Wednesday of every month, 9:30-11 a.m. at the ACLU offices in Detroit. For more information or to verify meeting dates, please contact Jay Kaplan at the ACLU, jkaplan@aclumich.org, 313-578-6812


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