I was intrigued by two articles in the news recently about intimacy and sexual relations between older adults with cognitive impairment. Both articles broach a subject that not many want to address, but an important one that does require attention for those of us caring for people with dementia.
Both authored by Bryan Gruley for Bloomberg, “Boomer Sex With Dementia Foreshadowed in Nursing Home,” tells of one experience in a long-term care facility, and the unfortunate consequences experienced for all involved when residents sought out intimacy. The other, “Sex in Geriatrics Sets Hebrew Home Apart in Elderly Care,” describes another program with what is probably considered to be a very liberal and forward-thinking policy on residents and sexual expression.
It’s a difficult topic and the answer is likely more grey than black and white. Older adults, including people with dementia, have a need for friendship and intimacy. This is normal and should be expected. Regardless of your own perspective, it is important for health care providers to be proactive, educate employees and establish policies and procedures in advance.
We must encourage family members, health care professionals and regulators to continue the dialogue while honoring the individual with dementia and their quality of life.