1st in the World - Gay Care, Taking Care of the Elderly LGBT community

Since last year April Amsterdam has a very unique home care organization for the elderly LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community: Gay Care.

Published by Nicole on 28/07/2015

Gay Care is for special people, who get special care. A team of nurses and caretakers deliver high-quality nursing, while their household staff assists in cleaning the house.

At the moment Gay Care is only for the elderly in Amsterdam. Next year (2016) they are extending their service to Utrecht and Rotterdam. Initiator of Gay Care is director Jan Nieuwenhuis, who once was the director of an ambulance service. All other employers have a background in nursing.

Prior to the start of Gay Pride 2015 I had a chat with Jan Nieuwenhuis about this unique home care organization in Amsterdam.

How did it all start with Gay Care?

The basic idea actually comes from two thoughts. On one side research shows that when homosexuals get older, they have to deal with discrimination and exclusion in health care and domestic help. On the other side you can say that in home care and the changes in care people have to live longer independently at home. It means that they have to deal with the care of a home care organization, and also meaning that it becomes more important to have someone in your house that helps and takes care of you.

It is important to have a connection with this person. In our case it is important that this person knows about the lifestyle and environment of homosexuals. Hence, the idea originated of Gay Care.

Is Gay Care a unique organization?

How we structured our organization is definitely unique. Every morning our nurses, a professional paid team, depart from our office and cycle through the city to visit and take care of our clients. The way we do it is very special for our target audience and doesn’t exist elsewhere in the world.

Gay Care started in April last year. How did you make it known?

We are very proud to have famous faces as our ambassadors such as Andre van Duijn, Erwin Olaf and Liesbeth List. We called them and they all were very enthusiastic. This has helped us a lot to get more known. Also, at last year’s Gay Pride we had Conchita Wurst on our pride boat. We did this to create more awareness, which was one way to do it.

A more direct way is that our employees visited GPs and hospitals, approaching them for new potential clients. Each week now we are getting new clients signing up. I believe that we now have about 80-90 clients and 35 people working for us.

That is quite a growth since Gay Care started last year. Are you satisfied with the achievement so far?

We are growing fast, but our growth is being hindered by 1) the hard search for new colleagues and 2) the newness of the organization as a care facility. You have to prove yourself in the first year and therefore we are only getting a limited budget from the health insurance. That is a reason we are not able to grow as quick as we would like to.

 

How does it work when people want to sign up?

Signing up for our service goes in the same way as in normal home care. In other words, we are a normal home care organization and people can sign up via their GP or hospital. It is getting paid for by the health insurance, just like any other home care.

Is it important as a care-taker to have knowledge about homosexuality?

It is usually pleasant when you have someone in your house with whom you can have a conversation with. It is nice when you can talk with this person about your life and love, instead of someone who doesn’t know much about it. On the other hand, what I notice in general elderly care is, it's sometimes difficult for a care taker to talk about homosexuality, because they often don’t know much about the way of life.

It isn’t difficult to ask someone about their grandchildren or what they have done during the weekend. But ‘Is that the man who just left your boyfriend?’  is a question that is not being asked a lot. It has nothing to do with discrimination, but more about the knowledge of how someone is living. If a care-taker knows about it, it makes it easier to have a conversation, which makes it more pleasant.

Does an employee need to be gay when working for Gay Care?

There are no such conditions. What is important is that people can keep their own identity and way of living. It does however mean that as an employee you have to feel involved, and also that you know what it feels like to been having a coming out. This is very important. It is also good to know about the position of homosexuals in different times. For example how it was in the 70s, where you need to have some some more sympathy. The attitude towards homosexuals has changed throughout the years.

Does Gay Care also create a community between different generations?

We also pay a specific attention in the link between generations. In fact, it is the younger generation who takes care of the older generation. That is the basis. In return, the older generation gives a bit of history to the younger generation. It is about interaction, which in fact is the idea behind Gay Care. It isn’t a one-way street, in which we take care of you, but we also get something in return.

On your website your ambassador Erwin Olaf says: ‘My biggest fear is that I will lose my dignity and that I will end up in an environment where I’m detached from the past, friends and loved ones.’ Does he have to worry?

Personally, he doesn’t need to worry if he has that kind of fear. As a home care organization it is our ambition to realize a LGBT nursing home. We are working hard on this to realize in the future. Our goal is a complete home for LGBTs. We are in cooperation with Amsta in the Sarphatihuis. So, by the time Erwin Olaf needs the care, he can live with us. And will definitely not have to be afraid.

Tell me more about the plans for a LGBT nursing home?

What I can say about it is that we are currently doing research with Amsta and if we can open a unit. I have good hope that we can finish this research by the end of this year. If I can be very optimistic, our mission is to open a unit next year when Gay Pride is on. Next year it will be Europride instead of Gay Pride. It will be twice as big and the whole of LGBT Europe will be focused on Amsterdam. We still have one year to work on it. It isn’t that easy, as we need money to realize it and there has to be space inside Sarphatihuis. It is very ambitious, but it is achievable.

 

Besides being a home care organization, Gay Care also organizes other activities. Can you tell me about them?

Besides having a professional team of care-takers, we also have a group of volunteers. Every Tuesday morning they organize a coffee morning and everyone can walk in for this. Recently we organized a brunch for our clients, same as making our last year’s Christmas brunch an annual tradition. We also give clients the opportunity to have one of our volunteers joining them.. Through an app fwe created, we can ask the volunteers about their availability, which makes us very involved with our clients.

Do you have anything special planned for this year’s Gay Pride?

Conchita is staying home this year, so there are a few other things we have planned. In our Gay Care lounge we will organize a few activities. There will be a special coffee morning and Dolly Bellefleur will be performing. On Friday 31st July, alongside other organizations we will be organizing a Pink Brunch at Marnixbad. And of course we have a boat during the Canal Parade, where people from the musical The Rozettes will perform, with amongst them Frank Sanders and Barry Stevens.

We would like to thank Jan Nieuwenhuis for his time and also his determination in making Gay Care a reality for the elderly.

For further information please visit the Gay Care website.

 

- Nicole -

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