Q&A with Bob Linscott of The LGBT Aging Project: Caregiving Services

April 2011

Bob Linscott, Assistant Director of The LGBT Aging Project in Boston, speaks with us about his organization’s caregiving services. The LGBT Aging Project, a partner of the National Resource Center for LGBT Aging, works to ensure that LGBT older adults and caregivers have equal access to the life prolonging benefits, protections, services and institutions that their heterosexual neighbors take for granted. Located in Boston, Massachusetts, the Aging Project focuses on three areas: LGBT cultural competency training for mainstream elder care providers; advocacy and public policy on state and national levels; and outreach and community building with LGBT older adults and caregivers. We spoke with Bob Linscott, Assistant Director, about the Aging Project’s caregiving program.

What kinds of caregiving services does The LGBT Aging Project provide?

The LGBT Aging Project provides two basic caregiving services. The first service is direct care in the form of a monthly LGBT Caregiver Support Group. This group, funded by the Caregiver Alliance of Suffolk County, meets once a month in Boston and is facilitated by a licensed independent clinical social worker who specializes in issues of caregiving and aging. This ongoing group has an average monthly size of 6 to 8 participants. Although no one is turned away, our goal is to provide this free service to people over 60 (that could be the caregiver or a younger person if the person receiving care is over 60). The second service is education and outreach. We work to bring as much awareness to the role of caregivers as possible. In addition to the constant inclusion of LGBT caregivers in our mission we offer organizations an informational presentation on LGBT Caregiving. We also regularly help mainstream elder service agencies plan LGBT caregiving events to help them reach out the LGBT older adults in their community.

How did the LGBT Aging Project start?

The LGBT Aging Project was founded in 2001 by a group of advocates from both the aging service network and the LGBT community who recognized that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults are invisible to mainstream elder service providers and that older LGBTs are invisible within LGBT community as well. The LGBT Aging Project hosted an LGBT Aging Summit with over 100 agencies and activists which resulted in a written action plan that outlined the goals of our work, ranging from training of mainstream elder care providers to civil marriage rights and expanded social activities for LGBT elders themselves. In most cases our aim was to facilitate change in existing systems, not provide direct services ourselves. We projected completion of most of our work plan within three years. However we have exceeded this timeline due to tremendous culture change and receptivity to LGBT issues over the past few years. The LGBT Aging Project’s work is focused in Massachusetts, but we are also founding members of the National Roundtable on LGBT Aging, organized by Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), which allows us to collaborate with colleagues throughout the country and address national policy issues together. Since its inception the Aging Project has collaborated with community partners to conduct research among LGBT older adults and mainstream providers, engaged scores of LGBT older adults themselves, provided training to more than 5,000 people and increased public awareness of LGBT older adults and caregivers, and the issues that impact their lives. We are proud of our pioneering and innovative work within both the mainstream and LGBT communities.

How do you publicize your caregiving services?

We publicize our caregiving services through our monthly newsletter and our website. All our outreach materials contain information on our caregiver support group and we do regular direct mailings to networks of therapists and social workers. Each of the five LGBT friendly congregate meal sites has information about our caregiver support group.

About how many participants use your services throughout the year?

Our caregiver support group services roughly 25 to 30 participants each year.

What advice do you have for people who are LGBT caregivers or folks caring for LGBT people who may not have access to the sorts of services in their communities?

First and foremost caregivers need to make sure they take care of themselves so that they can provide the best possible care for their loved one. The best way to do this is to create an opportunity for respite care which enables them to leave the home for periods of time to take care of their own needs. When the caregiver or care recipient is an older adult they can contact the care advisor through their local elder service provider. Even though it is unlikely that they will have LGBT specific caregiving services, these care advisors can connect them with additional resources. The Family Caregiving Alliance runs an online support group for LGBT caregivers that could be an important resource to connect with other LGBT caregivers. Finally, whenever possible we encourage caregivers to make sure they have strong support systems through family or friends. These networks can be the most vital resources and a constant reminder that you are not alone in this work.

Bob Linscott, MTS has over 25 years of experience working in the LGBT community. He has been a Board member with the Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in Boston for the past five years. His first contact with the LGBT Aging Project was in 2004 when he set up an Intergenerational Panel for the GLSEN Annual Conference with some of our speakers. Bob is also very active on the community level; he is currently a fellow in the Boston Civic Leadership Institute sponsored by Boston Cares. In 2005 he founded the JP Men’s Group, a community group for gay and bi men in the Jamaica Plain area with over 600 members.