LGBTQ+ Older Adults: Living with Alzheimer's
LGBTQ+ older adults might be at greater risk for Alzheimer's and less likely to seek treatment. There is no cure, but there are treatments that can help.
What Is Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's disease is a specific type of dementia. It is a progressive disease in which symptoms gradually worsen over the years. In early stages, memory loss is mild, but in later stages, individuals lose the ability to recognize loved ones, carry on conversations, and otherwise respond appropriately to their surroundings.
The Alzheimer's Association estimates there are 350,000 LGBTQ+ older adults (OA) currently living with Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder. By 2030, that number is expected to exceed one million.
Are LGBTQ+ Older Adults at Greater Risk for Alzheimer's?
A growing body of research shows that LGBTQ+ OA are more likely to experience mental health challenges that may put them at greater risk for Alzheimer's, including:
- Increased rates of depression and anxiety
- Stress due to internalized homophobia/transphobia
- Social isolation due to a lifetime of marginalization
LGBTQ+OA who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) may be more likely to have Alzheimer's disease and other dementias but are less likely to receive a diagnosis.
LGBTQ+ OA will avoid reaching out for services and support because they encounter or fear poor treatment from healthcare providers because of their LGBTQ+ identity, because they fear the stigma of being diagnosed with dementia, or both.
Resources for LGBTQ+ Older Adults Facing Alzheimer's
There is not yet a cure for Alzheimer's. For those living with the disease, an early diagnosis and proactive treatment is key to improving quality of life and aging with dignity.
If you or a loved one is experiencing dementia symptoms, the LGBTQ+ Health Directory can help locate an LGBTQ+-affirming provider near you.
Organizations working to support LGBTQ+ OA with Alzheimer's include the Alzheimer's Association and SAGE. These organizations published a joint report about LGBTQ+ people living with dementia and their caregivers.
The Alzheimer's Association also runs a 24/7 toll-free helpline: 800-272-3900.