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Dr Jolie Keemink (she/her) is a Research Fellow working in the Centre for Health Services Studies at The University of Kent. She is a developmental psychologist by background and has […]
Published: 29 Jun, 2023

Dr Jolie Keemink (she/her) is a Research Fellow working in the Centre for Health Services Studies at The University of Kent. She is a developmental psychologist by background and has extensive experience conducting research with marginalised groups. Her main research interest is inclusive practice within social care.

Jolie currently leads the CIRCLE project (Creating Inclusive Residential Care for LGBTQ+ Elders), where she examines how residential care providers can be supported to implement LGBTQ+ inclusive care guidance. In another project Jolie leads, she investigates how care commissioners can promote LGBTQ+ inclusive practice. She has also worked on the LYPSA project (University of Birmingham), testing an e-learning training module on LGBTQ+ care issues for social workers. Other research projects include building research capacity in social care and a realist review of overdose prevention centres.

Choosing a good care or nursing home that fits personal needs can be complicated and overwhelming for anyone. If you are an older LGBTQ+ person, there is the added challenge of finding a home that is inclusive of all sexualities and gender identities. Most homes do not advertise this information. Moreover, care home staff often feel they lack the skills and knowledge to discuss or provide LGBTQ+ inclusive care.

This can feel very vulnerable to older LGBTQ+ people, especially since they often have negative past experiences with health and care services. Older LGBTQ+ people often experience discrimination when they engage with social care services. They face heteronormativity, the assumption that they are heterosexual, and have to deal with microaggressions when they disclose their sexuality or gender identity. As a result, older LGBTQ+ people face poorer health outcomes and are concerned about accessing services. This is a significant problem to address because at least 1.5 million people in the UK identify as LGBTQ+, and they may have a greater need for social care because they are more likely to live alone.

The CIRCLE project (Creating Inclusive Residential Care for LGBTQ+ Elders), led by Dr Jolie Keemink at The University of Kent, aims to improve LGBTQ+ inclusion in care homes in Kent, Surrey, and Sussex. A care home is truly LGBTQ+ inclusive when all residents feel safe and welcome, all identities are celebrated, and no one is discriminated against or isolated. It is also essential that care staff recognise that sexuality and gender identity are relevant to someone’s care needs. The CIRCLE project uses three different activities to support care homes to establish more inclusive practices in care homes.

  1. Five care homes in Kent, Surrey, and Sussex have been selected to complete the Pride in Care programme. This programme was designed by Opening Doors, the largest UK charity supporting LGBTQ+ people over 50. Pride in Care offers policy reviews, a staff survey, internal training, and ongoing consultancy advice to improve LGBTQ+ inclusion in an organisation. Organisations that complete the programme receive a registered Pride in Care accreditation. This is the first time the Pride in Care programme will be used in care homes, and the CIRCLE project will evaluate what factors help and hinder implementing and using the programme in care homes.
  2. An online Community of Practice has been set up that meets quarterly to discuss topics related to LGBTQ+ inclusion in care homes. A Community of Practice is a group of people with common interests who share knowledge and learnings. The CIRCLE Community of Practice is open to care providers, care commissioners, older LGBTQ+ people, and other invested professionals to learn more about this topic.
  3. Together with older LGBTQ+ people and care providers, the CIRCLE project will co-design a free and accessible resource that introduces the fundamental principles of LGBTQ+ practice in care homes. This resource will focus on actionable and feasible steps each care home can take to improve that LGBTQ+ inclusive offer.

The CIRCLE project hopes to contribute to a more inclusive care provision in care homes so that every older person can feel free and safe to be themselves. Their lives should be celebrated, not eradicated. The project builds on fantastic previous work done by researchers in this area and runs until October 2024.

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