Michigan LGBT Aging Project awarded $25,000 Kendal Promising Innovations grant

Project will develop resources and trainers for unpaid caregivers

Dec. 15, 2015—Kendal Charitable Funds has awarded a $25,000 Promising Innovations grant to the Michigan LGBT Aging Project to develop resources and trainers for two categories of unpaid caregivers: caregivers for LGBT older adults; and LGBT caregivers for older adults. Both types of caregivers often are not family members.

Jay Kaplan of the American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan
Jay Kaplan of the American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan

“This project involves coordination and support with a collaborative partnership between Michigan’s leading LGBT aging advocacy group—the LGBT Older Adult Coalition—the Detroit area’s three Area Agencies on Aging and LGBT organizations serving the Metro Detroit region,” said Jay Kaplan of the American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan (ACLU-MI), which is administering the grant. ACLU-MI convened the LGBT Older Adult Coalition in 2010 in response to the lack of culturally competent services for LGBT older adults. The Coalition includes several local LGBT organizations, as well as mainstream organizations serving older adults.

Those caring for LGBT older adults often must deal with several issues specific to the LGBT community. Caregivers must:

  • Be attuned to how “out” the elder wishes to be when interacting with various health care providers.
  • Realize that finding LGBT-affirming healthcare providers can be difficult.
  • Understand the fear of discrimination and/or mistreatment that LGBT older adults may have, especially when moving to a residential care or nursing environment.
  • Help older adults maintain their connections to the LGBT community.

LGBT people often become caregivers for family members because they are less likely to have children. LGBT caregivers also face many issues.

  • Making arrangements with employers can be tricky, especially when caring for a significant other if the caregiver is not “out” in the workplace. (It is still legal in Michigan and many other states to fire someone for being lesbian, gay or bisexual.)
  • LGBT caregivers want to be sure they and their spouse and children will be welcomed in any setting providing health care for their family member.
  • LGBT caregivers must be prepared to provide any legal documentation needed to identify them as the designated caregivers for nonfamily members.

“With this grant, the Michigan LGBT Aging Project will be able to empower caregivers to enhance the uncompensated care they provide to loved ones while addressing many unique issues faced by LGBT individuals,” said Jim Dowell, chair of Kendal Charitable Funds, in announcing the award. “We hope to see this approach replicated in LGBT communities nationwide.”

Kathleen LaTosch, MSW, will direct the pilot project. She has successfully led several LGBT cultural competency projects in Michigan and was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the state’s Commission on Aging for her work in the field of aging and as an advocate for LGBT elders.

Kathleen LaTosch, MSW
Kathleen LaTosch, MSW

“The biggest challenge we anticipate is identifying aging service providers that are LGBT-affirming. Past experience has taught us that many administrative staff are unversed on LGBT issues, do not have protective policies in place and do not require training for their staff,” LaTosch said.

“The Kendal Charitable Funds grant will allow us to provide LGBT cultural competency training for staff and volunteers at each of the three Detroit Metro-area county service agencies and the region’s network of Area Agencies on Aging,” LaTosch said. “This would not be possible without outside support.”

A panel of leading experts on aging selected the Michigan LGBT Aging Project proposal for funding from among 97 initial applicants and 12 finalists from across the nation. Promising Innovation grants provide seed money for the creation of new services that are in keeping with Kendal’s Values and Practices.

“Kendal’s pursuit of better ways to address the unmet needs of older adults, coupled with the generosity of the Janet Comey Foundation, Kendal residents, board members, staff and others outside Kendal, led to the creation of the Lloyd Lewis Promising Innovations grant program,” said Beverly Grove, Executive Director of Kendal Charitable Funds. “Promising Innovations grants provide an opportunity for greater collaboration among those of us who seek to improve the quality of life and care for all older people.”

About Kendal Charitable Funds

Kendal affiliates work together within the Kendal System and with caring people outside of it to transform our culture’s view of aging and of older persons, stressing the potential for fulfillment and continuing contribution during the later stages of life. Kendal Charitable Funds, established in 1989, raises and disburses funds in support of Kendal’s charitable purposes, including many outreach efforts. As a system of not-for-profit communities, programs and services founded on the principles of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Kendal aspires to transform the experience of aging.

In 2007, the Kendal Charitable Funds board approved the creation of the Lloyd Lewis Fund to support advances in serving older adults through the Promising Innovations campaign. The fund and campaign were made possible by a gift of $250,000 from the Janet Comey Foundation, a private foundation established through the estate of former Kendal at Longwood resident Janet Comey. Since then, the Promising Innovations campaign has raised over $500,000 in matching gifts, more than doubling the size of the Lloyd Lewis Fund.

About the Michigan LGBT Aging Project

The American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan convened the LGBT Older Adult Coalition in 2010 in response to the lack of culturally competent services for LGBT older adults. The Coalition includes LGBT organizations (Affirmations, Equality Michigan, LGBT Detroit and the Jim Toy LGBT Community Center), and mainstream organizations serving senior populations (Area Agency on Aging 1-B, D-AAA, Jewish Family Services, Offices for Services to the Aging, and the Senior Alliance).