Daddy Did WHAT?: Dementia, Sex, and Humor

June 6, 2012
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Today eCaring welcomes Elaine K Sanchez, a healthcare speaker and author who is passionate about helping others cope with the emotional stress of caregiving. Here she shares how to deal with inappropriate dementia-related behaviors to find humor in sticky situations.

Today eCaring welcomes Elaine K Sanchez, a healthcare speaker and author who is passionate about helping others cope with the emotional stress of caregiving. Here she shares how to deal with inappropriate dementia-related behaviors to find humor in sticky situations.

Sex & Dementia: Watch the video

Family members are often shocked and upset when their loved one exhibits surprising sexual behavior. Understandably, events like this can be upsetting if you don’t realize that the behavior is generally a result of damage that has occurred in the brain.

Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases lower inhibitions, and often the person loses awareness of what qualifies as socially acceptable behavior.  Try to remember that this behavior has nothing to do with the affection they’ve had for their spouse/partner, and it is in no way a rejection of their relationship.

Inappropriate sexual behavior is usually a result of an unmet need that the person with dementia cannot adequately express.   It can be brought on by pain, hunger, or thirst. Sometimes a person will grab a hold of him/herself because they need to use the bathroom.  They could be acting out because they have a urinary tract infection. It may be that they are longing for some kind of comfort, and they associate sex with their memories of feeling good.  Or they may just not be capable of separating fantasy from reality.

I wish we had known more about dementia and sex when my parents were going through this.  It would have made it a lot easier on everyone in our family. Mom finally came to the conclusion that, in her words, “he just wasn’t playing with a full deck”, and she decided to find the humor in the situation.

Understanding and dealing with sexual behavior in persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases takes a lot of patience and understanding on the part of the caregiver’s spouse, children, and friends as well as their professional caregivers, and a sense of humor can go a long way toward diffusing a potentially upsetting situation.

Caregiver Must-Read: Elaine’s unflinching honest and uproariously funny book, Letters from Madelyn, Chronicles of a Caregiver

We are born sexual beings, and no matter how old or how sick we become, we never lose our desire for affection and comfort.  Respecting that and remembering that this behavior is due to the loss of judgment and inhibition that comes with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases, can help all caregivers honor the unique and sometimes surprising needs and desires of those individuals in our care.

For a more complete article, along with suggestions for handling inappropriate sexual behavior in a professional setting, click here to read Elaine’s article in Caregiver Solutions Magazine.

Elaine K. Sanchez is a Caregiver Survivalist, author, and speaker whose passion is helping people cope with the emotional stress of caregiving. Her keynotes and workshops are based on her unflinching honest and uproariously funny book, Letters from Madelyn, Chronicles of a Caregiver. To read more articles, watch videos, participate in her caregiver blog, or for information on how you can book her to speak at your caregiver event,  visit her website at: www.ElaineKSanchez.com