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Area caregivers train to support elders in LGBT community

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Caregivers in the region are getting help in learning how to support elders in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community through a daylong training session -- the first of its kind.

Organizers of A Caring Response for LGBT Elders: Cultural Competency Training said this is the first time there's been a full training day devoted to providing care for LGBT elders in Wisconsin.

Susan Erlandson has a female partner.

"I've been in a long-term commitment for almost 30 years now, and my parents think she's absolutely wonderful," said Erlandson.

But as she grows older, she knows certain challenges are coming her way in finding long-term care.


"It's scary in the sense that I don't actually know how they would provide those services (or) to what degree their comfortableness would be," said Erlandson.

La Crosse City Council member Sara Sullivan said some caregivers struggle just to start the conversation.

That may lead some LGBT elders to go back into the closet because they don't feel safe coming out to their provider or caregiver.

"You can create a situation," said Sullivan. "You can have a rainbow flag, you can have information on your intake form that lets people know, ‘OK, this is a safe place.'"

Thursday, caregivers from around the Coulee Region came together to learn those skills and more on how to better provide inclusive services to LGBT elders.

It's information Sherri Larsen said will be beneficial to more than just her staff at New Horizons Shelter and Outreach Center.

"One of my jobs is to be educating not only the staff that work for our organization, but also other residents that may not have a lot of experience living or working with somebody in the LGBT community," said Larsen.

And with time, Erlandson hopes the more people know, the more everyone will feel more comfortable.

"I think it's our right," said Erlandson. "I mean, we're like anybody else in terms of needing services, wanting services, wanting that comfortableness, that emotional component involved. We're just like anybody."

The training covered topics including challenging stereotypes, policies on Social Security and Medicaid and tax laws.

About 50 caregivers throughout the region participated in the training.

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