Coming out to care: gay and lesbian carers' experiences of dementia services.
This article reports on findings from a qualitative study, undertaken in England that explored the experiences of 21 gay men and lesbian women who care, or cared, for a person with dementia. The aim of the study was to explore how a person's gay or lesbian sexuality might impact upon their experience of providing care in this context. This paper reports on one theme that emerged from the wider study--carers' experiences of 'coming out' to service providers. Respondents were recruited using 'snowballing' methods and the study employed semi-structured interviewing techniques. Data collection occurred over a protracted period (2003-2007), the time scale being determined by (the well documented) difficulties in recruiting respondents from this group of people. Data analysis was undertaken with the intent of developing common and contrary themes using a constant thematic comparative method. The results reported here demonstrate the ways in which carers mediated disclosures of their sexualities to health and social care service providers and, for some, their wider support network. For many carers, responses to these disclosures proved to be a critical issue and one that coloured their experience of providing care. Service providers' reactions are demonstrated as being characterised by, at best, a broad acceptance of gay and lesbian people's circumstances, through to a pervasive disregard of their needs.
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