Tag Archives: LGBT Caregiver

That Ride Down Memory Lane

Love has no age, no limit; and no death ~ John Galsworthy

 I started the journey down memory lane on Christmas eve just before 7:00 pm.  First stop was the beach front in Palm Beach, Fl., just across the street from


Beach Front: Palm Beach, FL.

where TLO and I had dinner last year.  No sure how I was going to react once I arrived at the scene to start of my journey, I took my tablet along and sat out on the beach as I knew my friend, Denise Brown was hosting a 36 hour chat on her wonderful website,  Caregiving.com for Caregivers who might need an extra support over the holidays.   While it took me a few minutes to log-on from my tablet, I was happy to find R.M. as the guest host.  Like me, R.M. has experienced  the loss of her husband; we had a great conversation which lasted close to 45 minutes:  R.M.’s conversation and comfort was just what I needed to meander down the road!  (By the way, if you have not visited Caregiving.com or Aftergiving.com, you’ll find a great supportive community there, I suggest you visit both website by clicking the hyperlink above!)


Christmas Lights on Ocean Dr

With Christmas Carol’s playing on the satellite radio, I headed south on Ocean Drive  as so many wonderful, and happy memories filled my time on the road.  Of course I missed his physical presence in the car, that gentle caress of his hand on mine.  Heck, I even missed his opinion, or two!  Seeing those beautiful lights on Ocean Drive reminded me how memories of love last a lifetime. Then it hit me…Death does not change love!  Sure, I may not remember something as mundane as how the Christmas lights were displayed in front of these homes in previous years, but I do remember how special our drives up and down Ocean Drive were to us was because our drives were apart of the love we shared together.

Just the other day I was at a party and was asked, “How long should someone grieve.”  Puzzled, I replied, “do you want the standard therapeutic  answer or one from the heart. Oh, I know the standard therapeutic answer, but I want to know your answer, since you’ve allowed so many people into your story.” My reply was simply this: “Just as love is unique between two people, so will be how one will deal with their own healing and grieving.  There is no time-table, there is no recipe for grief other than just to own it, embrace it and at least forwpid-wp-1419525578309.jpeg me, talk about it, because in time, it will get better.”
After talking to R.M. in the Caregiving.com chat room, I thought about this conversation last night  as I motored down the road on Ocean Drive. I think it was kind-of-like one of those  ‘AH-HA’ moment that we experience from time to time that lit a light bulb in my head, turned up my spirits, and reminded me to be thankful for what I had, rather than sad for what I think that I have lost: Death does not change love.
Yes, I have lost his physical presence in my life, but that doesn’t mean that I have lost his love in my life.  That was the big distinction


Hugs and Love last forever

that I learned on my on Christmas Eve. When in the midst of healing and grieving, sometimes we need a trip down memory lane to help create our Healing Ties.


Filed under Caregiving, The Purple Jacket

Our Follow-Up Story. Life after death: Couple’s story sparks change

Cartier gold-rimmed aviator bifocals, classic disco era. A pair of immaculate, brilliant-green Florsheim slipons, men’s size 7, worn once yearly — on St. Patrick’s Day — for more than three decades. Bathrobes still hanging on a hook.

It’s taken Chris MacLellan about three months to prepare himself for this moment, the sorting through of everything that his partner, Bernard Richard Schiffer, left behind when he died March 9 of esophageal cancer at age 83.

There are the memories, unresolved feelings of loss and a sense of emptiness in the Deerfield Beach home they’d shared for 11 years.

There are the surprises, like the handwritten note tucked inside one of Schiffer’s alphabetized address books: “To love someone is to see the face of God.”

“I think Richard intended me to find the note. I think he left it for me,” said MacLellan, 57.

And there’s the legacy. The couple had agreed to let the Sun Sentinel chronicle their final months together in hopes of bringing awareness to the special challenges that lesbian and gay seniors face at the end of life. Since their story, “In Sickness and In Health, ran April 13, MacLellan has been overwhelmed by the response.

MacLellan has seen everything from letters of support or condolence to health care institutions pledging policy revisions.

Many who read the couple’s story expressed surprise that health care rights are so connected with marriage rights. Some gay couples said they are now considering marrying, even though they live in states like Florida that do not recognize such unions.

“I appreciate the people who have reached out, the kindness. It’s hard to believe that two ordinary people, who lived in a little house in Deerfield Beach, could make such an impact,” said MacLellan, who works as senior services coordinator for SunServe, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning social service agency in Wilton Manors.

‘Who are you?’

In the story, MacLellan described rushing Schiffer to Broward Health North’s emergency room in September and being ignored by intake staff while they questioned his partner.

“When we first got to the ER, [the medical staff] paid 100 percent attention to Richard and didn’t really acknowledge my presence,” MacLellan said at the time. “When I tried to speak up, and give them more of the full story about what was happening, they said, ‘Who are you?'”

With Broward Health Staff

Speaking to upper level management at Broward Health North. Photos: Carline Jean, Sun-Sentinel Staff Photographer

A day after the story’s publication, MacLellan received a call from Broward Health North CEO Pauline Grant.

She invited MacLellan to speak at the hospital’s next management meeting.

“I was disappointed that we didn’t do a better job,” Grant said. “The emergency department is our front door, and we need to treat all of our families and patients with courtesy and respect.”

On May 15, MacLellan sat in a hospital conference room surrounded by almost 50 doctors, nurses and administrators, calmly retelling his experiences and taking questions. The atmosphere was serious but respectful.

“This is not right, and we are taking it as an opportunity to do better,” Grant said at the meeting.

Now, Broward Health North is working with SunServe to design sensitivity training for hospital employees, starting with those in the emergency room. In the past year, SunServe has been training nurses and health care workers in how to best treat LGBT patients, as well as analyze a facility’s practice for bias — such as using only “single, married and divorced” on records. SunServe has certified two assisted-living centers and a home health agency but had never worked with a hospital before, said the agency’s administrative director, Bryan Wilson.

Talking to Broward Health

Photos: Carline Jean Sun-Sentinel Staff Photographer

MacLellan will become one of the program’s trainers this summer, working with Broward Health North and other facilities.

There are few formal initiatives to make the health care system more welcoming to gay and lesbian patients, said Catherine Thurston, senior director of programs for SAGE, a national advocacy organization for LGBT elders that has helped train about 4,000 health care providers nationwide. More facilities and providers are willing to take steps, she added, as they recognize gay and lesbian seniors are among their patients.




Filed under Caregiving, The Purple Jacket

Communities of One?

Photo Credit: Free Digital Photo’s

Roads that appear smooth can turn bumpy on a moment’s notice.  That happened to us this weekend as ‘The Little One’ experienced some ‘bumps in the road’ with his esophagus.  There has been so much smooth sailing over the past month or so that the events of this weekend took us by surprise.  We take so much for granted in life, and expect our systems to run without a problem.  Since the diagnosis of esophageal   cancer in August, we have learned that food can be a funny thing.  There is no rhyme or reason why one form of food has more difficulty passing the ‘bump in the road’ in his esophagus more so than another does.  It just happens.

While the three instances this weekend were alarming, they reminded us that no matter how good we might feel, there is  always an issue lurking around the corner.  I am happy to report that as of Sunday night and moving into Monday, ‘The Little One’ is doing well and there has been no problems with the esophagus. These episodes take quite a bit out of us simply because of the unknown.  While the food pass ‘the bump in the road’…when is the right time to call 911?  It is a delicate balance and sometimes you just have to hope and pray the you make the right decision.

As I write about our weekend, I started to think about a man who I met through my work at SunServe Social Services.   This gentleman lives independently at Continuing Care Retirement facility and while there appears to be loads of activities,  he feels “on the outside looking in’ because as an LGBT Senior, his living environment is not sensitive to the needs of LGBT Seniors.

Some people might ask…Just what are the needs of an LGBT Seniors?

If you have to ask that question, then I think the best reference for you would be The LGBT Aging Center report on Language and LGBT Housing: Making Models that Fits all Housing. 

Aging in America is difficult enough; LGBT Aging is two-fold.   Think of it this way…As a kid every one of us had that awkward moment where we felt like we did not belong, we stood out in a crowd, or felt  left our by a group.  Today, across America, LGBT Seniors have those  same feelings and emotions we had as kids when they are thrust in facilities that are not sensitive to their needs.  Imagine trusting your care to someone who dislikes you for who you are…Remember Nurse Rachett?

Thinking about this gentleman  lead me to think…”what could be possibly be worse”… Living alone or living in a community where you are alone?

 [polldaddy poll=6145755]

While society is changing, we have a long way to go before there is acceptance. Overtime…with proper training, logical conversation, while using  active listening skills, change does happen!

Photo Credit: Free Digital Photos (he should be wearing a bow-tie)

I am happy to be associated with an organization like SunServe Social Services   who provides ongoing organizational consultation to help companies, organizations and service providers  in becoming more LGBT competent through policy and procedures alignment with best practices for LGBT care.  It is through awareness and sensitivity training where we step outside our comfort zone and learn that there are other ways at looking at life is making a difference in our community. 

Sure, my plans for this past weekend took a major detour as I had to make some adjustments in my life to care for the one that I love.  But isn’t that what life is all about?  What I was supposed to do this weekend was important, but as a caregiver, I am on call 24-7 and sometimes you have to weigh what actually is  important in life.

While we are secure in our relationship and know that these ‘bumps in the road’ are going to happen from time to time, I am left to  wonder about all those other ‘little-ones’ out there who have to fend for themselves in a system that is not accepting of them: I wonder about all those frail seniors who live alone just looking for someone to have a conversation with on a daily basis.   I wonder about all those seniors who live in a community, yet feel like they are alone.   Being alone in a community has to be the worst feeling anyone could ever experience in life.

 Let it be our goal that there will never be a community of one!

You, see…We might have cancer, but cancer does not have us!



Filed under Caregiving

Cardiologist…Day Two…

While we know that the tumor has shrunk, we also know that the tumor still have its ‘activities’ within the body.  Like a rumbling volcano, the tumor will react to certain foods and hard swallows.  ‘The Little One’ really has to be careful on how and what he eats, or else he’ll have an ‘eruption’ filled with gastric acid and sharp pain.

The location of tumor has made it difficult for us to decide the origin of  the sharp pain, hence the need to see the cardiologist.  Pleased with the weight loss, the cardiologist went about his work in the most pleasant of ways.   The EKG showed that the heart was in good shape and that the pain that ‘The Little One’ has been experiencing is directly related to the tumor.

Of course, these are all scientific speculations and based on his years of experience as evidence from the EKG.  While there is relief in this news, that fact of the matter is that the pain still is a part of his every day life.    As we age, we all have to accept the little bumps and bruises to our health that come along in life.

Each one of us handles those little bumps and bruises in a different manner, and my suspicion is that those of us who have a healthy acceptance  of our health calamities,  tend to fare better with their reality than those who don’t.  I certainly see a healthy attitude of acceptance in “The Little One”.

Acceptance goes a long way in building a healthy attitude.  Of course, we have our bad days and ask ourselves…’why me’…that’s just a part of human nature.   The lesson that I have learned from this experience  while watching  ‘The Little One’s’ attitude  is to simply just give up control;  but boy…do I have a long way to go with that!

Just like the doctors who can’t control the outcomes of the test, we can’t control the reality of disease. We know that the tumor has shrunk, but we also know that the tumor is still causing some issues.  Yet what we can control is how we react to the pain and issues that it creates,  and that my friends,  is where the secret lies.


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Filed under Caregiving, The Purple Jacket

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