Everybody Loves to Be Loved

By Robert Elmer III on May 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

The content of his article contains mature subject matter and may not be appropriate for younger readers. The Topic? Sex and Alzheimer’s dementia.
Do I really have to tell you that this is a subject that many are not at ease talking about? Many parents aren’t comfortable thinking about their grown children as sexual beings. I have a male friend who assumed the responsibility of sitting down with his maturing teenage daughter to have “the talk” and when he did, his wife had to leave the room. I can only imagine how she’d feel about dealing with her parents and intimacy. Just like young people need to understand this topic, those dealing with seniors need to understand it as well.
Let’s be clear, as humans, we are sexual beings and as such we have a need to love and be loved and enjoy all that comes from being intimate with someone. There’s no age limit to ones sexuality in fact, at a recent conference I attended we were told that 43% of men and 22% of woman are sexually active over the age of 70 and that 46% of men and 33% of women over 70 continue to “gratify themselves.” Time and time again, I’ve told you about how far hand holding, a warm hug or a gentle and sincere “I love you” can go if you’re a caregiver. Of course, we’re talking about more than just hand holding so let’s look at it logically. Aside from our need to express our affection to our partner there’s a great deal of good that comes from a positive sexual experience. Afterwards, most feel relaxed, warm, safe, they sleep better and they feel loved.
If the time comes when you need to transition your loved on into a dedicated community for Alzheimer’s care, don’t be surprised if, during the cultural assessment, if you are asked if your parent(s) are sexually active? There’s a wonderful story of a gentleman that moved into a community and the first time they gave him a shower, he became aroused. He made no lewd comments, no overtures towards the staff but it did make a couple of the aides uncomfortable. To the credit of the Nurse Manager, she approached his wife when she visited and asked her if she had any idea why this might be happening. She confessed, with a very red face, that “a big night in their 55 years together, always began with a shower.” Another common occurrence in a dedicated community is when a woman will lie down on a bed with a man or visa versa; not because they want to get lucky but because they’ve been used to being next to a warm body in bed for years.
As you’d expect, dementia adds some interesting challenges to a sexual experience. After all, it affects their motor skills, their judgment, sequencing and of course they can misread signs from the opposite sex adding new meaning to the term “body language.” If there’s a full figured caregiver in the house with a low cut top, that could be perceived as an invitation. That’s one more example of where their brain has lost its boss and although it should tell them that that’s not appropriate, it won’t. That also explains why they may have a tendency to attempt to do private things in public places. If you find that your loved one is having some real issues in this area e.g. hypersexual activity, talk to their Doctor and they can prescribe an appropriate medication to deal with that.
Finally, don’t always assume it’s about sex. As I said earlier, everybody loves to be loved. Remember also, to always deal with these uncomfortable challenges in a mature fashion. Don’t over react, respect their dignity, no laughing and by all means no lecturing. To learn more you can always visit www.alz.org.
If you have any questions, email me at repe@careforcare.yabanjin.com.

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Robert Elmer IIIView all posts by Robert Elmer III