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  1. #1
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    The Friends of Dorothy Saga - Episode 3

    I have just been to visit Ken. He is in a ward of the mental health unit of our local hospital. He is 93 and his dementia is becoming more profound. He is a gay man who has been partly in and partly out of the closet during his whole life. When he was well he was gorgeously hilarious and such good company! For a few years now he has been in residential care but a couple of weeks ago he trashed his room and ended up in the mental health unit. Ken is fortunate in some ways because when he was showing signs of dementia some gay friends successfully ensured that he was moved from his flat in London to a residential home here on the coast so that he could be visited. Four gay guys have visited him regularly and have him to their homes for food and what chat is possible. His closest relatives are distant cousins and they do not live nearby. BUT he is being well looked after - he has been so lucky.

    The Alzheimers Society estimates that over 200,000 people with dementia have no known family carer. A clear majority of LGBT people over the age of 60 live alone and in many cases do not have close contact with what relatives they have. Sometimes they have been disowned by the family because of their sexuality. Most remember, all too vividly what it was like in those days when homosexuality was the unspoken vice and when for men any sexual contact was illegal. In their old age, and perhaps when receiving service provision, there is the danger that they will lose what openness they had achieved and go back into the closet because it seems safer that way. What can one do to help them/us?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by roger1941 View Post
    [B]
    In their old age, and perhaps when receiving service provision, there is the danger that they will lose what openness they had achieved and go back into the closet because it seems safer that way. What can one do to help them/us?
    Roger, I agree that this is a danger. In John's CH, I'm not aware of any gay residents, and it's not somethink I could readily ask. Perhaps there are, perhaps some have retreated into the closet.

    But is this really a problem? I can't imagine too many residents think about sex at all (though some clearly do). Men visit men, women visit women, people kiss. I'm not challenging you, just asking for clarification.

    Your friend Ken is very lucky to have such good friends, many residents have no-one to visit, or to check thay they are being looked after. Many have been abandoned by their families.

    Sorry to appear to be thick, but I'd really like it if you could explain more. Perhaps this is the way to change things?


    Hazel
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    Don't grieve for what you have lost, rejoice for what you have had.

  3. #3
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    The Friends of Dorothy Saga - Episode 3

    Hazel. You are a treasure because you are asking the right questions and I don't mean to appear to be patronising by saying that. Two things to say.

    Firstly I think that we need to deal with that assumption we have that people are always heterosexual. The government works on the figure of 5% of the adult population as being LGBT. So if service providers and health professionals just kept in their minds that 1 in 20 of their clients at any given time might be LGBT then this would help raise their awareness and give hope to us when we ask that any treatment should be based on them dealing with the 'whole' person. In the home where my partner was, there were two women, both with dementia, who constantly walked around hand in hand. The staff just assumed that the one thought the other was her husband, but using the 1 in 20 criteria (and there were 28 in that home), that might lead them to adopt a somewhat different approach to the care in that situation.

    Secondly, you might hear LGBT people talk about 'being family'. We enjoy being with our own kind, indeed way back we even had our own language. It probably stems from feeling safe when we are together, but when we are together we do feel relaxed, our humour becomes different and so on. That is why when we are in places like hospitals and residential homes we can feel like fish out of water - we are amongst people who are 'not our people'. This can be especially true for those of us who are older. So it isnt a matter of thinking sex, it's more a matter of feeling that we dont belong.

    I bet you didn't expect such a long reply - it's quite worn me out writing it!!!!! Hope it makes some sense.
    Great to hear from you and I hope you are coping well.
    Roger

  4. #4
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    Hi Roger,bringing an awareness is good,I have an interesting thought,some people living with dementia have good recollection of the past but not the present,would therefore a gay man with dementia remember a world when this was not as open as it is now and therefore would not wish to be gay today ,I expect this is coming over as clear as mud!

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by roger1941 View Post
    Hazel. You are a treasure
    Wow, it's a lomg time since I've been called that! I don't feel in the least patronised.

    The government works on the figure of 5% of the adult population as being LGBT. So if service providers and health professionals just kept in their minds that 1 in 20 of their clients at any given time might be LGBT then this would help raise their awareness and give hope to us when we ask that any treatment should be based on them dealing with the 'whole' person.
    I had no idea! There are 27 residents in John's EMI unit, I'm not sure how many in the entire CH. Perhaps I too need to re-think!

    Secondly, you might hear LGBT people talk about 'being family'. We enjoy being with our own kind, indeed way back we even had our own language. It probably stems from feeling safe when we are together, but when we are together we do feel relaxed, our humour becomes different and so on. That is why when we are in places like hospitals and residential homes we can feel like fish out of water - we are amongst people who are 'not our people'. This can be especially true for those of us who are older. So it isnt a matter of thinking sex, it's more a matter of feeling that we dont belong.
    I can understand that. Many of us remember the time when homosexuality was illegal, and there is still massive hostility, for example in the church, the last place where we should expect to find intolerance.

    I so agree that we should all be able to take for granted that we will be treated as 'whole people'. Sadly there's a long way to go.

    I bet you didn't expect such a long reply - it's quite worn me out writing it!!!!! Hope it makes some sense.
    Great to hear from you and I hope you are coping well.
    Roger
    I'm delighted, I hope you'll continue to explain. You've certainly given me food for thought.

    I'm coping OK, thanks. I've been on the roller-coaster for ten years now -- I think I'll be very dizzy when I get off!


    Hazel
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    Don't grieve for what you have lost, rejoice for what you have had.

  6. #6
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    The Friends of Dorothy Saga - Episode 3

    Perfectly clear Danny and I wish I had the answer.
    I am aware though of how LGBTs do feel at a loss when they are out of their situation.
    Am also aware of how people's sexuality can change with the onset of dementia - it can intensify too. I think that some research should be done on this - or perhaps it has been and I don't know of it.
    Great to hear from you.
    Thanks
    Roger

  7. #7
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    I wonder what needs to change.

    I can't quote figures but do know that many elderly people are abandoned by their families for whatever reason..sometimes it's merely because they're old and the families can't be bothered with them.

    In Ken's situation..at 93 years of age..is he thinking about his sexuality? I don't know..I'm not Ken and I'm not gay.

    If I live to be 93 I think I'll be pleased to have friends of whatever sexual leaning or any other leaning to be there for me.

    Friends are friends. Full stop.

    Sexuality is completely different.
    Whether people are heterosexual, bisexual,homosexual doesn't bother me.

    In their old age, and perhaps when receiving service provision, there is the danger that they will lose what openness they had achieved and go back into the closet because it seems safer that way. What can one do to help them/us?
    Accept the person that is. And try to lose the "sexuality" bit.

    One of the problems with "coming out of the closet" is that people then become aware. And that alters their judgement. It shouldn't , but it does.

    So by declaring that you are homosexual you instantly have a label.

    Homosexuality is legal for consenting adults. It has been for a long time.

    So let's get on with being human and together..and sharing our problems as people. The sexual aspect is immaterial and part of your private lives.
    gigi



    The only way to see a rainbow is to look through the rain

  8. #8
    Hi Roger,

    I'm not sure what kind of different care you feel would be needed for gay or lesbian people. Whether the care workers thought the two women were lesbians or not seems irrelevant to me as long as they did not try to split them up. Have you any specific instances where I can clearly see that sexuality has had a great impact on a final stage dementia sufferer's life?

    Apart of course from the fact that because of his age, your friend's family may have abandoned him long ago. I doubt that nowadays a person would be abandoned by the family simply because of their sexual preference. If families split it is usually not a single cause nowadays which does this. Well in my experience anyway.

    Personally I couldn't care less what sexual preference a person has. I do know that some of my most happy moments are remembering my dear, dear friend of long ago. We worked in the next classrooms to each other and he used to send me the most side splitting limericks (especially about other members of staff). We had many, many happy times together. I do know he suffered prejudice and between us we devised a plot where we gave the rest of the staff enough reason to think we were having an affair. We used to go out to lunch together and were inseparable in our work situation. Ken knew Brendon very well, liked him and knew about our 'spoof' affair and the reasons why we were doing it.

    Our ploy worked well as of course none of the staff ever said another thing about him in my presence and I had the gift of his wonderful friendship for many years.

    Ken and I, Brendon and his very long standing (and very long suffering) partner, went out often socially and had some very good times. I've kept a few secrets for Brendon in my time I can tell you!!

    xxTinaT

  9. #9
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    Hi Roger, I think that it is very hard for people to understand the feeling of "not belonging" or "not feeling part of" that you mentioned, and is an important point, just because they themselves have no prejudice towards gay people. I liken it to me (female) being in a world of mostly men, yes I can get along with men but I would have that feeling of not belonging and would seek out other females because we have so much more in common. But perhaps because of that you have a much stronger community which is shown by the love and support given to Ken by his "family".

    I do feel that we are all on the same path with dementia, however I understand that there are some people working in care homes who are not so understanding and you must tread warily.

    I have no answers but wish you and Ken love and understanding, Tilly

 

 

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