While participating in a free, monthly “Teleconnection” discussion hosted by WellMed Charitable Foundation via Zoom, a caregiver asked the panel of experts a question that was weighing on her: How she can get her uncle, a gay older adult who was being mistreated by his roommate at a long-term care facility, a room reassignment?
His roommate was calling him derogatory names, creating an intolerable, hostile environment. She wanted to know what ability she had to remove him from the situation, especially because he’s her uncle and not her parent.
Immediately, she received advice from experts in elder abuse representing different area agencies on aging (AAA). The conversation was not planned; it happened organically and is an example of the great connections that take place during WellMed Charitable Foundation’s teleconnection events, explained Elliot Sklar, PhD, associate professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Sklar and his colleague Lucy Barylak, MSW, were running WellMed programs for a general audience when they quickly realized they needed a forum for members of the LGBTQ community to ask questions specific to their needs. They have now launched one.
Upcoming Pride Month virtual discussions
In honor of Pride Month, WellMed Charitable Foundation is hosting virtual discussions throughout June focused on challenges faced by older adults in the LGBTQ community and their caregivers. The group will do another program specific to LGBTQ needs in January. Sklar said it’s really a way for WellMed to involve the LGBTQ community in the other wellness- and prevention-based programs it hosts to benefit older adults.
“We don’t want audiences to be segregated,” Sklar said. “The whole point of inclusion is to include. We’re waving a flag to the community and saying we’re here and these are the programs.”
Audience members from across the country and Canada can dial in to the “Pride of Caring”-themed “Teleconnection” discussions via Zoom. Topics range from “Stress and the Dementia Caregiver” to “The Pride of Aging” and “Disaster Preparedness.” Throughout the month, organizations and individuals across the country who work with LGBTQ seniors and caregivers will be spotlighted.
Sklar hopes by featuring AgeOptions, the area agency on aging in suburban Cook County, Ill. that has dedicated services for LGBTQ seniors and caregivers – the only AAA to do so – it will inspire other AAAs across the country to follow suit.
Participants will also receive a list of national resources specific to LGBTQ issues, arming them with the tools they need to advocate for themselves in difficult situations—like the caregiver whose uncle was being mistreated. During that particular teleconnection event, she learned that mistreatment at long-term-care facilities is common among the LGBTQ community. But she also learned the process to report an incidence of mistreatment to her area agency on aging, and to the local ombudsman overseeing residential facilities. After going through those channels, her uncle’s roommate – the source of his problem – was removed.
“It’s amazing the ‘aha’ moments and tips exchanged between participants and health care workers,” Sklar explained. “It’s a wonderful, organized way to see connections happening.”
About 50% of participants in WellMed’s teleconnection events are caregivers, he said, and 50% are health care workers with a desire to learn how to be more inclusive or sensitive to members of the LGBTQ community.
During the programs, participants can use the time to ask questions, troubleshoot problems or listen and learn something new.
“It’s a safe space to voice questions, frustrations or concerns,” he said. “People are isolated at home. They might not have respite care to seek out counsel or an hour to themselves. When they can participate from the comfort of their home and it’s free, that really removes barriers.”
Register for the free program online or by calling 866-390-6491.