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An Inclusive and Welcoming Environment

Adrienne Kennedy

No matter where I am or whom I encounter, I always want to be inclusive and respectful, as well as create a welcoming and safe space. That requires a “self check-in” every once in a while to ensure how I conduct business still fits into that mantra.

I recently attended a training called “Serving our LGBTQ Elders,” led by the Indiana Person Directed Care Coalition. The basis of the training was to have open dialogue about caring for LGBTQ+ elders, potential barriers to their care, and creating a welcoming environment. There were speakers from various organizations, from legal to medical, teaching us how to be better advocates for LGBTQ+ clients.

As field staff, CICOA Flourish care managers try to stay away from assumptions. We need to paint a vivid picture of a client’s situation, but we want them to provide us the accurate information to do so. Above all, I never want to assume anything about clients. When creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ elders, the training confirmed that using inclusive language is very important. Inclusive language includes using the proper pronouns (which can extend outside of he/him/his and she/her/hers) and not assuming someone’s relationship status or sexual orientation. For example, when meeting a new female client, I will ask, “Are you in a relationship?” versus “Do you have a husband?”

How can I be more inclusive as a care manager?

The biggest question is how can I do more and be more aware? How can anyone take that extra step to be more inclusive? The answer is simple: education. Educate yourself. Attend trainings and do your research. It is perfectly fine to be unsure. The vital piece is to find the answer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and if you accidentally offend someone, it is appropriate to apologize. It is a learning experience, but making that effort to be more inclusive will be noticed and much appreciated.