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Sex in the Nursing Home- Addressing Sexuality in the Elderly

Many people are now living longer and maintaining healthier lives, allowing the need for sexual intimacy to thrive. A survey in 2000 of people over the age of 80 found that 29% of men were still sexually active and 25% of women were still sexually active. Intimate relationships are needed throughout life, as they are important to both mental and physical health. Residents of nursing homes have oftentimes lost their homes and spouses, and taking away their sexuality can be another devastating loss. Maintaining intimate relationships and sexuality can be very important, as the human touch can make a person feel accepted and loved.

Senior Sex Myths and Factors Affected by Age

It is oftentimes assumed that a person loses their sex drive, or even their ability to perform sexually as they get older. The elderly are often times perceived as sexually undesirable, or lack the desire to have sexual relations. Male and female sex drives differ throughout life, and this is true into the golden years. Impotence and menopause oftentimes go along with being old, but this does not mean that sex stops. Several erection-inducing medications now make the impossible an obtainable goal for men.

Men may have a longer time obtaining an erection, but can actually performer longer sexually. Women can have sex late in life, depending on their sexual desire. Menopause may affect the pleasure of sex, as the vaginal wall is thinning. A woman may experience dryness or pain with sex, which can also be treated with lubrication. Many elderly people and their families have a fear of death while being sexually active. Questions arise about having a heart attack or stroke from overexertion or high blood pressure. Each person is different, and your sexual health and medical problems should be discussed with your personal physician.

There are certain diseases and medications that can affect sexual desire and drive. There are certain things that decrease a person’s sexual desire, while there are others that tend to overstimulate sexual tendencies. Inappropriate sexual behavior can be part of persons behavior, or may be a way of “acting out.” These behavioral issues need addressed, and should not be encouraged.

Sex in the Nursing Home

Sex is part of life, and it does not stop at the door of the nursing home. It is a topic that is oftentimes not discussed when a patient enters an extended care facility, or nursing home. The nursing home has typically been a place where elderly and sick people go for medical care, their sexual health and privacy rights are often times not addressed.

There may be different opinions, depending on the sexual partners is a nursing home. Many people may think it is cute for an elderly married couple to want some privacy in a nursing home. However, they may feel differently if a widow is having sex with the man down the hall. As long as the couple consists of are two consenting adults, it is not up to anyone else to determine who should and shouldn’t be having sex. The law requires that privacy be provided for conjugal visits, no matter what the nursing home staff’s opinion is on the matter. The doors cannot be locked, but privacy must be given.

Also, it is important to make sure that both parties are consenting adults, and are mentally and emotionally capable of making their own decisions. Diseases such as Alzhemier’s and dementia raise many questions about competence in making judgment decisions. There is a fine line that pushes the boundary of consenting sex and sexual assault. These issues should be addressed with the patient and their families. Residents also have the right to express their sexual desires alone if they choose, and they should be provided privacy as well.

The lack of privacy in nursing home can be a violation of a resident’s rights. A person has a right to sexual health, and privacy should be provided to them upon request. Not being able to express yourself sexually can lead to depression, and can be harmful to mental and physical health. It may not be an easy topic to discuss, but no one should be made to feel ashamed or judged because they want a healthy and happy sex life.

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