LGBTQ activist speaks out against discrimination in nursing homes

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BOSTON (State House News Service) – A longtime activist appeared at the quarterly meeting of the LGBTQ Commission on Aging on Tuesday to advocate for an addendum to quality assessments of state care homes focused on the treatment of older LGBTQ+ residents in long-term care facilities.

Activist Alejandro Marcel has lived in a Massachusetts nursing home for a year and a half, he said, and as a transgender man he was appalled by what he said were levels of discrimination ” nuances” faced by LGBTQ+ people in these establishments.

“They don’t tell me, ‘Oh, you’re transgender, I’m not going to change your diaper.’ But if they don’t like you, they might take you to the bathroom and leave you sitting there for an hour,” he said.

Marcel described a situation in his nursing home where a lesbian couple was separated, although he said heterosexual couples are not. He described the discrimination as “dehumanizing” and said he knew people who shut down when they entered nursing homes.

“There is no accountability,” he said. “We need teeth. We have to be able to say, “You can’t do that. ”

Marcel proposed an LGBTQ addendum to the state Department of Public Health’s Nursing Home Quality Ratings so that the treatment of marginalized residents would be directly factored into a nursing home’s evaluation. DPH Assistant Commissioner Kevin Cranston said he would take the idea for the addendum to the department. Commissioners thanked Marcel for sharing his concerns, and Senator Patricia Jehlen offered to help Marcel continue to advocate for LGBTQ nursing home residents.

“We need to do more to strengthen the quality [in nursing homes]and that should be one of the measures of quality,” Jehlen said.

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