Ask a health professional or immediate care employee in an older care service as to how they manage the intimacy needs of citizens and you will likely see one of those “I wish you had not asked” looks. It’s a subject that even causes middle-agers looking after for their mature mother and father to wince, a generation, ironically, that released a trend of “free love” while performing Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You are With.” But like it or not, we do need to discuss, plan for and reply to the needs of seniors who might have some way of dementia. “We are sex-related people all the way to the grave,” says Dr. Nancy Hicks, adjunct lecturer of Human Sexuality and Women’s Reproductive Health at Lehigh School. She will also tell you that sex and the pursuit for intimacy do not simply vanish if you are psychologically challenged.
Hicks has been providing workshops on this subject for team in assisted living centers and served living features and has found that most of them want to learn how to better reply to the sex-related needs of their citizens, as do close relatives. Here is some of the smart guidance she shared during an interview:
People with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia can give authorization for discussing sex-related intimacy with another consenting adult. It might not be in terms or in official claims but rather it will be communicated through non-verbal functions such as holding hands, touching, flirting or teasing. Hicks will be the first to tell you that this type of non-verbal interacting is not all that different from how most individuals show their interest in having sex with another person.
The intimacy needs of the seniors are not always indicated through sexual activity. It can be met by cuddling, holding hands or simply going to sleep together. Many senior citizens in assisted living centers are hungry to be touched. Offering them with actual physical statement by an arm around the neck, holding their hands while discussing or to be able to pet a fuzzy dog or cat can go a long way to feeling loved and cared.