Your rights as an LGBTQ+ person with dementia

The law protects your rights as an LGBTQ+ person – to equal treatment, to not be discriminated against, and to privacy. Read about your rights and what to do if they are not being respected.

Many LGBTQ+ people will have experienced negative attitudes and some will have experienced hostility, rejection and abuse. You may have encountered:

  • prejudice – people making judgements about you because of your sexual orientation or gender identity
  • discrimination – being treated differently to other people because of your sexual orientation or gender identity
  • hate crime – experiencing verbal or physical aggression because of your sexual orientation or gender identity.

You may have had previous negative experiences with services including police and protection, or health and social care services. After a diagnosis of dementia, you may be worried about how health and social care professionals will treat you.

However, the law protects your rights and those of the people you support.

How the law protects LGBTQ+ rights

It is illegal for someone to be treated differently or be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

This applies to areas like health and social care, meaning all service providers including GP surgeries and hospitals must treat you equally. In England and Wales, this law is called the Equality Act 2010.

In Northern Ireland, it is a combination of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 and the Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976.

These laws also apply to the people close to you. It can reassure you to know that they cannot be discriminated against in relation to things like visiting rights, should you need to go into a care home or hospital.

If you are trans and choose not to disclose this, then organisations are not allowed to tell people about this under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

This is because, like sexual orientation, a trans status is classed as sensitive personal data. If you have or have applied for a Gender Recognition Certificate and choose not to disclose that you are trans, then your right to privacy is also protected by the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

This applies throughout the UK. It means that someone providing care or medical services to you – for example, a doctor or care worker – cannot tell other people about your trans status without your permission. If they do, they can face criminal prosecution.

It can be helpful to know that the term ‘next of kin’ has very little meaning in law. People often think it has to be a blood relative or a husband or wife, but this is not true. If a hospital or care home asks for details of next of kin to be contacted in an emergency, you can choose whoever you want.

You don’t have to be married to them – they can be a partner of any gender, a friend, or someone else you want to be contacted.

Those closest to you have the right to be consulted about your treatment and care. They don’t have to be blood relations or married partners. For example, if you are in a same-sex relationship and not married, this would apply to your partner.

Equality doesn’t necessarily mean being treated ‘the same as everyone else’. Equality means that you have the right to be who you are and express your sexual orientation, gender identity and relationships, just like anyone else.

You shouldn’t feel you have to pretend to have a different sexual orientation or gender identity in order to get the care and support you need.

Everyone should be treated and respected as an individual and encouraged to express their identity. People shouldn’t assume that your gender identity or sexual orientation is not important to you, or that it doesn’t make a difference to the care and support you need. Friends, family and professionals should support you to be the way you are.

What to do if your rights are not respected

If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly because of your sexual orientation or gender identity – for example, by a service or a professional – you may want to make a complaint.

If this happens, you should go through the following process:

  1. Try to resolve the complaint locally. For example, if you have a complaint about the care you have received, ask the organisation for their complaints procedure and follow the steps listed.
  2. If you follow this procedure and still don’t feel your complaint has been properly addressed, you can take the complaint further. The complaints procedure should explain what to do next.
  3. If not, you can contact the relevant Ombudsman to make a formal complaint. Which one you talk to will depend on what the complaint is about and where you live.
  4. If you need advice or support when making a complaint, there are lots of organisations that can help and support you through the process. 
  5. In some cases, if you feel you need more help with the process, you might need to talk to a solicitor to get legal advice.
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