Supporting a lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans person with dementia

6. Relationships

It is important not to make assumptions about a person’s relationships. These may be influenced by a number of factors. For example:

  • Some LGBT people do not see their biological family regularly (this could be for a number of different reasons).
  • Some LGBT people are part of a family made up of people they’re not biologically related to –sometimes known as a ‘family of choice’. You might be included in this.
  • Some LGBT people do not have children or grandchildren, and their main relationships will be with other adults.
  • Older LGBT people are more likely to be single and live alone. This can have an impact on the support that they have and need.

Some people may not understand the relationships that LGBT people have, or may not consider them as important as heterosexual relationships (between cisgender male and female people). This can be a difficult and frustrating experience.

If the person and those supporting them aren’t in touch with their biological family, they may have less support as their dementia progresses than others would. They may instead find themselves being supported by paid care professionals who don’t understand them or respect their relationships. This can create problems and may lead to unmet needs for the person. Advance care planning (see section below) can help LGBT people with dementia decide who they want to be involved in their care and to make decisions for them (when they are no longer able to).

Many LGBT people may be more reliant on friends and other members of the LGBT community as they get older. Friends are an important source of support and continuity for LGBT people, and often make up the person’s ‘family of choice’. However, friends may be of a similar age to the person and may have their own health and care needs to manage. This can lead to the person becoming isolated and not having as much support as they might need. If the person develops dementia they may find it harder to stay in touch with people. It’s important that people are supported to continue these relationships and avoid becoming isolated.