Palliative Care for Every Colour of the Rainbow

10 June 2024



Keech Hospice Care PRIDE Logo. A colourful rainbow background with the Keech Hospice Logo of 2 interlinked hearts.

June is here, and you know what that means?… It’s Pride Month!🏳️‍🌈

It’s that time of the year when we come together to celebrate love, acceptance, and diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community. And this year we’re championing the theme for International Pride this year: Reflect, Empower, Unite.

For us, Pride Month holds a special place in our hearts for so many reasons. Why?…Because pride Month isn’t just about parades and rainbow flags. Instead, we’re taking a moment to reflect on the unique challenges that the LGBTQIA+ community might face when it comes to receiving palliative care.

Palliative care is about providing comfort, support, and dignity to people with life-limiting illnesses, right? But here’s the issue: not everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community feels comfortable or supported in these spaces. Sometimes, people might face discrimination, misunderstanding, or even ignorance about their individual needs.

Picture this: you’re placed in a vulnerable position, whilst experiencing a life-liming illness diagnosis. AND, you’re having to worry about whether the people caring for you truly understand and respect who you are. It’s a tough spot to be in, but unfortunately this is the reality for so many.

Research from Hospice UK revealed that 68% of respondents said that being trans and/or gender diverse influenced their end-of-life plans and wishes. That’s significant. And it tells us that we MUST do more to raise awareness of the conscious and unconscious biases that members of the LGBTQIA+ community face, whilst extending our reach and providing inclusive, compassionate care that every single patient deserves.

So, how do we do it? Well, for starters, we listen. We take the time to understand people’s individual needs, concerns, and preferences. We believe in fostering a culture of understanding and acceptance among our staff, by continually educating ourselves on the unique needs and challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals. Our hospice services are for everyone, and if our patients have that reassurance, the hope is that they can be themselves.

“When people are facing an intensely emotional time, the most important thing is that they feel free to be who they really are and to have their needs met. It’s about being inclusive and mindful. We want to help everyone live until they die, and that means helping them live authentically.” – Mark Pedder, Palliative Care Inclusive Health Nurse

Here’s the deal: family and friends, as well as care professionals, can unintentionally make assumptions about LGBTQIA+ people, which can seriously affect the care provided. So, it’s good idea to start by introducing yourself with your own pronouns to create a more inclusive environment, offering patients the chance to say how they like to be addressed and asking what matters most to them.

This can eliminate the opportunity for assumptions to be made about someone’s gender identity. However, if you’re unsure it’s best to use neutral language like “they/them” pronouns and terms like “partner” until you’re sure of how someone identifies.

But it’s not just about the patients. Nope, we’re championing equality for our staff too! Because guess what? It’s essential that they also feel valued, respected, and supported every step of the way.

“It is important to me that Keech is supporting Pride Month, as for me personally, it means that it’s a safe environment to work in and it means I can just be me.” Lesley Beaney, Emotional Support Practitioner

So, as we celebrate Pride Month, let’s keep fighting to make sure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, feels seen, heard, and cared for. Because that’s what it’s all about, right?

If you’d like to explore ways of challenging diversity, Mark, our Palliative Care Inclusive Health Nurse, is offering a free virtual workshop on Tuesday 2 July at 2-3pm.

The session is called “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” which is an overview of unconscious bias and how to recognise the individual needs for the LGBTQIA+ community diagnosed with a palliative illness. Sign up HERE!

Together, we can make the difference, one rainbow at a time🌈