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Study Shows Challenges Facing LGBT Seniors With Dementia

KCBS Radio Morning News
July 24, 2018 - 10:28 am

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS Radio) - Bay Area scientists have conducted a first-of-its-kind study focusing on aging and dementia among members of the LGBT community. 

UCSF and Kaiser Permanente researchers examined the medical record data of 3,718 gay, lesbian and bisexual adults over the age of 60 and found that 7.4 percent had been diagnosed with dementia. That's a rate that's lower than the general population of people aged 65 and older who have an approximate 10 percent diagnosis rate, according to researchers. 

In spite of that positive finding, research suggested that dementia has distinct effects on the LGBT community.

"One of our major concerns really is some of their unique life situations that will make it incredibly hard for them to cope," said the study's author, Dr. Jason Flatt of UCSF. "We're hoping that this research can lead to greater knowledge, and really highlight that we need to be focused on our LGBT community."

Gene Giramonte of San Rafael lost his husband to Alzheimer's earlier this year, after spending eight years caring for him. He said the challenges for him, as a caregiver, at times seemed overwhelming. 

"There were a couple of occasions when I really did hit my crisis point in trying to balance my life with a husband who was increasingly unable to take care of himself," he said.   

Giramonte said that gay and lesbian people, both patients and caregivers, may not have the resources they need. "In the LGBT community, generally speaking, there are fewer resources, and the community itself is not as well-equipped to reach out to the available resources that are there," he said.

There are other concerns for LGBT patients. Seniors with dementia may be at higher risk of social isolation, may be hesitant to seek medical care because of past discrimination, and are more likely to be limited in their access to friend and family caregivers. 

Reported by Melissa Culross                                                                                                                                                       

Written by Diana Shook