There’s ‘ignorance and prejudice’ treating dementia in LGBTQ+ community

To mark 50 years of London’s Pride Parade, the Alzheimer’s Society is calling for better support for LGBTQ+ people with dementia. 

The charity had a stand in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, helping to raise awareness of the condition which nearly 79,000 people are estimated to be living with in London. 

Alzheimer’s Society says its vital that people in the LGBTQ+ community who face a double stigma associated with their condition and sexuality or gender identity, can access support that feels safe, inclusive and relevant.

Dr Cordelia Galgut, a psychologist from Westminster, whose same-sex partner of 40 years has Alzheimer’s, said: “My partner has lived with dementia for about 10 years, after being diagnosed in her 60s. She is now 74 and in residential care. 

“We faced challenges as a same sex couple but in our situation with my partner’s diagnosis, we are now facing more difficulties largely connected to being a same sex couple, one of whom needs help in a care setting. 

“Before my partner went into a residential home, she had carers visiting our flat and a good deal of this ignorance and prejudice was very evident in that situation. This made it so much harder to navigate what was already a hugely stressful time. 

“I know people visiting same-sex partners in care homes can feel uncomfortable in this setting, despite a lot of good intentions from staff.  Attitudes still need challenging and examining.”

Dr Cordelia Galgut

John Hammond, a volunteer at Alzheimer’s Society said: “Dementia predominantly affects those over 65 and people in that age category have lived a particular social and historical context about their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“Many in the older generation were criminalised or treated as psychiatrically unwell. They often had a difficult life because of their identity. 

“The challenges they face now as older people with dementia come from the past. Many LGBTQ+ people of that generation are estranged from their families due to their sexuality, and do not always have solid support networks around them that non-LGBTQ+ people benefit from, such as children or a faith group.” 

Dara de Burca, Director of Operations at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “People living with dementia can experience a broad range of challenges, but being LGBTQ+ with dementia can present additional obstacles.

“It is crucial that everyone affected by dementia gets support that meets their individual needs, regardless of their gender identity or sexuality.” 

Main picture: Raising awareness at the weekend Pride Parade. Pictures by: Alzheimer’s Society

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