The Guardian has today highlighted the tricky issues regarding dementia patients and sex.
With the onset of dementia, residents of care homes are likely to lose legal capacity and with that the ability to consent to sexual activity. However the onset of old age and dementia does not mean the desire for sexual activity and physical relationships disappears. It is also recognised that positive physical relationships are beneficial to an elderly person’s mental health and well-being.
In addition, this is of course a delicate subject for the families of residents to deal with. The article in the Guardian today highlights a case study of an elderly couple who had moved into a care home together. The couple’s adult children became disturbed by their physical relationship and a decision was made for them to live on separate floors within the home. This resulted in a lot of upset for the couple with them displaying more challenging behaviours.
Many care homes do not have policies on residents sexual and intimate needs, and certainly this is common amongst claims we have dealt with on behalf of care homes. A campaign by the Alzheimers Society called “Lift the lid” aims to tackle this issue, noting that care home staff have no idea often how to approach these delicate issues.
But any policy tries to manage residents sexual and intimate needs would need to be carefully drafted and managed. Elderly residents with dementia are extremely vulnerable, and with the loss of mental capacity their sexual desires may change over time,. In addition any policies would need to draw a careful line between allowing a resident to express their sexual needs and not allowing them to be open to abuse.
Written by Jennifer Johnston at BLM