LOOK AFTER YOURSELF CARING FOR A RELATIVE WITH DEMENTIA: SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS

Many people still find it difficult to discuss sexual matters even within a normal and loving relationship. When one partner has dementia it can seem totally inappropriate and perhaps wrong even to think about such things. This is a mistake. Most people, if not everybody, need loving, physical contact, both sexual and otherwise.

Often people with dementia can remain affectionate for some considerable period into the course of their illness. They may well respond to the same cues as they have done in the past, the familiarity of which may give them confidence and satisfaction. Sometimes, however, sexual responses change, the physical side of a relationship lapses, and the matter is buried in an attempt to relegate it to the subconscious.

As mentioned before, taking a more active role may help, but usually this is only beneficial in the earlier stages of the illness. The sexual and physical aspects of a relationship are such a personal and intimate part of one's life that it is unlikely a carer will wish to talk about them, other than with a specially trained counsellor. Some doctors may be able to help, but few are trained in this field. They should, however, be able to help you contact a person with the appropriate training.

For many people, sexual intercourse itself is not what is missed most. It is the physical and asexual expression of an affectionate relationship that means so much.

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General Health