This year’s LGBT+ History Month is a celebration that marks 50 years of the pride movement. An important milestone to enable us to reflect on what has been achieved and the fact that society has come a long way in those 50 years. However, it is also imperative we understand that there is still so much to be done, and LGBTQ+ people are still faced with inequalities and prejudice that has a profound impact on their lives.
When there is any event that encourages reflection, my thoughts naturally turn to people living with dementia. As many will know people with dementia may have problems with their memory, their memories from decades ago may be stronger than weeks ago. Someone who is LGBTQ+ and living with dementia may find it easier to recall a time when they were ostracised, persecuted or even prosecuted than the current times we are living in. LGBTQ+ people are also more likely to experience health inequalities, they may have less family support or be fearful of the state and authorities.
People living with dementia often tell me that one of the hard things about coming to terms with their diagnosis is living with the stigma and misconceptions. LGBTQ+ people with dementia can often feel doubly stigmatised. Our older generation still live with the fact that homosexuality was a criminal offence in this country. And whilst it is easy to think, when we look back over the past 50 years of activism and progress, that society is more enlightened we must remember that it was only in 2003 that Section 28, which made it illegal for ‘the promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities was repealed and shockingly it took until 2013 for homosexuality to be fully de-criminalised.
LGBTQ+ people with dementia also may face the practical problems of remembering who they have ‘come out’ to or be tired of having to keep on telling people about their sexual identity every time their health or care needs are assessed. This may mean that they do not tell people who are supporting them and must live with the fear of not being accepted for who they are.
When I think of the issues that LGBTQ+ people with dementia face it reminds me just how important our values, at ADSS, of being person centred and being inclusive are. We passionately believe in getting to know the people we support, understanding them as individuals – their history, their current situation and their aspirations. We talk candidly to people and ensure people feel comfortable to be themselves with us. It is only by doing this that we can be inclusive and ensure we achieve our vision of ‘everyone living with dementia, in Kent and Medway, getting the support they need to live the life they want’.
I know over the coming years we still have lots to do to make our organisation as inclusive and diverse as it should be but know our strong values will stand us in good stead to be the organisation we want to be and ensure everyone can get the support they need to live their life their way.
If you are living with dementia and would like to know more about how we can help you, please contact us on 01474 533990.
Chief Executive Officer