Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Sexual expression in people with dementia

Roger Watson, Editor-in-Chief

There are very few studies about sex in older people with dementia. In fact, there are not many studies about sex between older people, especially in long-term care facilities although one previous JAN interactive blog entry did look at sex between older people in care homes. However, a study from Spain by Villar et al. (2017) and published in JAN aimed to: 'explore staff responses, in terms of common practices, towards partnered sexual relationships in long-term care facilities where one or both people involved have dementia'. The article from the study is titled: 'Staff's reactions toward partnered sexual expressions involving people with dementia living in long-term care facilities'.

The authors surveyed over 2000 staff in over 150 nursing homes in Spain by presenting a vignette of situations with older people with dementia in sexual situations and asking 'What do you think most of your colleagues would do in this situation?' Unsurprisingly, such situations were viewed as problematic, especially if only one partner had dementia. Older and more experienced respondents were less supportive of such sexual activity. Likewise professional and senior staff were less supportive than care assistants.

The authors concluded: 'this study adds to the body of knowledge on long-term care facility staff practices regarding the management of sexual relationships involving persons with dementia, by highlighting the lack of a consistent and prevailing supportive response to this activity and also the high frequency of restrictive practices particularly when just one person with dementia is involved' and 'providing staff with clear guidelines regarding the management of specific sexual situations might be particularly useful.'

You can listen to this as a podcast


Villar, F., Celdrán, M., Serrat, R., Fabà, J. and Martínez, T. (2017), Staff's reactions toward partnered sexual expressions involving people with dementia living in long-term care facilities. J Adv Nurs. doi:10.1111/jan.13518

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