Sex, Intimacy and Dementia
How does dementia affect sex and intimacy? The diagnosis of dementia in one person in a relationship does not have to mean the end of a healthy sex life for both. People can continue to derive pleasure from one another, and sex can provide a source of support and comfort to both parties in the relationship for many years to come.
Just with all relationships over time, however, changes may occur when dementia enters the home. As the brain is the control center for everything in the body, depending on the part of the brain that is affected, the person with dementia may:
- Have more interest in sex
- Have less interest in sex
- Experience changes in ability to perform sex
- Have less inhibitions, and may say or do things they wouldn’t have otherwise done
- Display more aggression and may appear less sensitive to the other person’s needs
- Appear cold and distant
- Not recognize their long-time partner or spouse
- Act inappropriate towards outside help
- Forget immediately that they have had sex
- Make repeated demands for sex
Some couples find it relatively easy to deal with these changes and may be content to develop new forms of intimacy that involve different forms of touch and cuddling. Other couples may find the changes to their sex life extremely difficult to cope with, frustrating and embarrassing, and may have a deep sense of loss.
Although it can be a difficult and sensitive topic to discuss, help is available for couples who need it. You can begin by discussing the issues with your GP. He or she may be able to offer some helpful tips or refer you to a Counsellor who is specialized in this area. You can also call your local Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 at 1-800-273-3900 or visit their website www.alz.org for resources. You may also want to attend a support group that provides a safe environment for discussing all issues related to dementia including sex, intimacy and changes to your relationship.
If you are a health care professional or someone who works with people who live with dementia and their families, you need to be comfortable with the subject of sex. Sex isn’t going away and it’s a normal part of living at every age even when a person has dementia. Your clients will need your help dealing with these changes just as they will with changes to other parts of their life. It’s time to educate yourself on the issues and solutions so you can be a valuable source of support. It’s time to talk about sex, baby!