Many jokes have been shared over the years regarding the idea of parents having sex. Everyone knows they must have but no one wants to think about it! And then one day there it is bigger than life!
I spoke with a daughter recently who received a call from a facility stating that her father was being sexually inappropriate with the caregivers. He was getting” overly friendly” in his words and in his touch. It was also reported that he now had a girlfriend and the staff had found them lying on the bed in his room on more than one occasion.
The daughter who was aghast upon hearing this, immediately shared the news with her brothers who were surprised, although not as anxious as she was about the report. And then she called me.
“Susan’s” father has dementia. He has been diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease and has always been completely socially appropriate. He never dated after his wife passed away 8 years ago. They were like “two peas in a pod” and this daughter was so taken aback that this was occurring and at this time in his life. She was saddened as she felt that the depth needed to engage in a “meaningful” relationship was lacking. The family had legal concerns as well.
It is so difficult and yet important to remember that sexual attraction is an innate part of our humanness. Unfortunately, loss of social inhibition can be a very large part of dementia. In addition, the need for partnership can be very strong for a person who is having much difficulty navigating through their memory loss and/or judgment issues, especially when the person has had a meaningful relationship previously.
As family members, we have to try to step back and view this piece of the process through a clinical eye or at least speak with someone who can assist in framing this picture more clearly. Most facilities are equipped to deal with such behaviors and have appropriately trained their staff. However, as with life, each situation is unique and may require a special care plan and/or oversight.
As a Certified Care Manager, I was able to assist Susan with her father’s journey and, by extension, with her own as well. Dementia can exhibit in many ways and is inconsistent from person to person. It is so important to digest and listen with a trained ear when sexual behavior presents itself. As with most behaviors, appropriate communication and environmental support are key factors in a successful care plan.