How Dementia Affects Intimacy And Sexual Life Of Seniors
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How Dementia Affects Intimacy And Sexual Life Of Seniors

July 21, 2019 | Health | By Jason Reid

When dementia sets in, many couples start to think that it will bring an end to their sexual lives. However, this is not true. Seniors can continue to be close to each other. They might even find newer ways of sharing closeness and being intimate. In situations where challenges arise, one can always talk to professionals or even close friends.

How Dementia Affects Sexual Emotions

It is the brain that controls emotions and so is in charge of controlling a person’s sexual emotions. When dementia sets in, how the person will react to sex is based on which part of his brain has been affected and the kinds of medications that he is taking.

Changes that could occur in a senior when dementia happens are:

  • Develop a greater interest or totally lose interest in sex
  • Perform sexual act better or be unable to perform at all
  • Might become more aggressive or turn softer during sex
  • Alterations in the levels of inhibitions

What is important is for the couple to try and adapt to these changes. While some are able to do it more easily, there are couples who feel anger, sadness, and embarrassment and take longer to cope with it.

How To Deal With The Changes

Lesser Interest in Sex

Due to dementia if the person’s interest in sex drops then he is likely to become silent and withdrawn. In such cases the person usually likes to be hugged and cuddled. However, he won’t be in the position to reciprocate the same. This often leads to a feeling of guilt. This is where the other partners role becomes important. He needs to reassure that just because the sex has stopped it does not mean that he is alone and the closeness does not exist.

Sometimes the person might even forget that he has had sex, become totally detached after the act, or even think that his partner is someone else. While this can be a little humiliating, try to think more logically and know that he is not doing this on purpose. Talk to him later in private and don’t make any accusations.

Greater Interest In Sex

When dementia causes the interest in sex to rise then it is also often coupled with levels of aggression. The other partner might find it difficult to satisfy the demands all the time. Instead of a rude refusal it is best to either stay away from the person till the mood has passed or to try and talk politely to him and comfort him. If this happens frequently then it is good to speak to the doctor about it so as to find a better solution to the issue. Do remember that if you are employing a care giver for the person then they should be informed about this from before so that such advances can be effectively dealt with and any embarrassment can be avoided.

Changes In Inhibition

With dementia a person can:

  • Touch himself in public
  • Begin to undress himself in public
  • Make sexual advances in public
  • Use language and sexual innuendos that he didn’t use earlier

Not only is this embarrassing for the partner but is equally so, as well as confusing and frustrating, for the person with dementia as well.

Usually such behaviour is not even related to arousal! The reason could be something totally different like:

  • Feeling warm and so wants to open his clothes
  • Discomfort of wearing a certain type of dress
  • Need to use the washroom
  • Feeling agitated
  • Mistaking a stranger to be his partner
  • Mistaking someone for their current (or previous) partner

As the partner, it will now become your responsibility to look after the one with dementia. You will have to protect him from being laughed at. Maybe, you could ask the grand kids not to visit for a while lest they get shocked. As dementia [progresses, the feelings and behaviour changes. So, it is likely that this phase will change as well.

Why Does It Become Tough For the Care-giving Partner to Enjoy Sex

When you are caring for your partner who has dementia, there will be times, when you don’t want to have sex, even if he expresses a desire for it. This is normal and happens due to:

  • You feel exhausted after completing all the duties and responsibilities towards him
  • When you have to perform intimate jobs like bathing him or helping him clean up in the toilet, you don’t feel the sexual connect
  • You feel that his sexual advances is not normal and just a part of an effect of dementia. This becomes a turn off for you
  • You are scared of his aggressive behaviour in bed
  • You find that your partner has become very clumsy in bed and this prevents you from having a good sexual session you’re your partner

Don’t feel guilty when this happen. It does not mean that you don’t love him anymore. It means that you need to find newer ways to reach out to him like:

  • Snuggles, light touching, and stroking.
  • Going for walks and exercising together
  • Helping him masturbate
  • Give him a therapeutic massage

Intimate relationships can be of different types – it need not always mean sex. So, if your partner has dementia and sex is not something that the both you are being able to enjoy anymore, then it is time for you to get creative and find new ways to stay close and connected with each other. Don’t think that this is the end of the road – it is a new “adventure” where pleasure can still be experienced.

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