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Study: Gays over 50 involved in family caregiving

Study: Gays over 50 involved in family caregiving

Like the baby-boom population at large, gay New Yorkers over 50 years of age are heavily involved in the care of sick or frail family members--and are often expected to shoulder more of the work, a new study says, concluding that such caregivers are handicapped by policies that discriminate against same-sex relationships. "Despite the fact that they are taking care of parents, children, partners, and siblings in need, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered caregivers are not provided with the same social, emotional, or financial support afforded to other caregivers," the study said. The report, called "Caregiving Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender New Yorkers," was released Friday by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. It was based on a survey of 341 LGBT New Yorkers over 50. The research was completed by the institute, the Pride Senior Network, and the Graduate School of Social Service at Fordham University. Because the sample was not random and was limited to New Yorkers, the findings may not apply to the gay population in general, the authors cautioned. But they called it "an important first step in learning more about the social networks and caregiving experiences of LGBT elders." The study found that 46% of those surveyed have been caregivers at some time in the past five years, compared to 44% among all people over 50. It defined caregiving as "the extensive, time-consuming aid needed by people who are so sick or frail that they require hands-on help with the tasks of daily living." "Far from shying away from family responsibilities, this study shows that gay people are equally, if not more, devoted to family members and loved ones in need," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the task force. Many of the gay caretakers' experiences matched the general population, but one third reported that family members expected them to provide more of the care to older relatives "precisely because they were gay." The study said this stemmed from the perception, often false, that they had fewer of their own family responsibilities. As with the general population, gays administered care to both their blood relatives and their partners, where more discrimination came into play, the study said. It found that many programs supporting caregivers, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, Social Security, and Medicaid, discriminate against same-sex partners. "Policies that embrace wide definitions of family and caregiving and recognize same-sex relationships would help to ease the burdens and strains of caregiving," the report concluded.

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