According to sexual rights educator Robin Dessel, the older a person gets, the more affection they need. “There’s no less desire or need for camaraderie, intimacy and touch as we age,” she explains. “In fact, loneliness is one of the foremost causes of depression in the elderly.”
So how do spouses – especially those dealing with loss, anger, embarrassment, anxiety or frustration – stay connected when their relationship is constantly changing due to dementia?
Intimacy Exists in Many Forms
“For many couples,” says Jillian Castellano, Community Relations Director at YourLife™ of Coconut Creek, a Memory Care community in Coconut Creek, Florida, “resolving their negative feelings and grieving the loss of their former relationship frees them to nurture a new relationship that is appropriate for the moment. Some couples are able to maintain intimate relations for years after a dementia diagnosis, while others are content to keep their love alive in other meaningful ways.”
Common Issues Couples Face
Reduced Sexual Interest
In the early and moderate stages of dementia, the affected partner may withdraw from intimacy because they are embarrassed by their memory loss, changing behaviors or lapses in judgment, or because they are worried, depressed or angry, or because their symptoms or medications are affecting their physical desire. Speak with your spouse’s doctor about the possibility of depression or medication interference.
You can warm up your spouse by reassuring them they are loved and safe from judgment. Learn your partner’s love language in order to express your affection in ways they will best understand and strengthen the bond between you.
Sometimes, it’s the unaffected spouse who withdraws from a physical relationship. It’s not hard to imagine a roller coaster of emotions – grief, guilt, anger, pain, resentment, exhaustion – derailing a spousal caregiver’s desire for intimacy.
Struggling with negative emotions, plus the full-time demands of being a nurse, housekeeper, cook, chauffeur and more, can take their toll on your own physical and mental health while draining the energy you need to connect with your loved one on a personal or physical level. Be sure to schedule regular you time and give your body and spirit a chance to relax and recharge.
Increased Sexual Interest
Some partners welcome their loved one’s newfound pep, but others may be unable to meet their increasing demands. If your spouse’s sexual advances are overwhelming you, try distracting them with a fun activity you can do together. This may be enough to satisfy their need to connect with you.
If these behaviors cause concern or embarrassment, e.g., your spouse displays these behaviors in public or you feel someone could be harmed, ask a doctor or dementia behaviorist for tips on how to manage the situations with respect and sensitivity.
Is It Really Okay?
An early dementia diagnosis does not mean you and your spouse can’t – or shouldn’t – continue to enjoy a meaningful sex life. If you are hesitant to be intimate with your partner now or as their dementia symptoms worsen, however, discuss your concerns with them and consider other meaningful ways to connect until you can speak with their doctor
For more tips on how to manage intimacy and other sensitive topics with your loved one, we invite you to contact the dementia experts at YourLife™ of Coconut Creek. Call 954-228-6252 today!
Inspiring Memory Care Designed for You. Defined by You.
YourLife™ of Coconut Creek was created to provide the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. We focus all our energy, attention and resources to creating a community that caters to each resident’s personal needs, respects their choices and honors individuality, while providing unequaled peace of mind and support for families.
Because Memory Care is our sole focus, we have the unique ability to design and personally tailor plans around our residents. We understand that each resident is an individual that has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities, so we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence.
Our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide assistance with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection.
With YourStory, our signature programming, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and holistic health and wellness programming, outings and an array of other special events to personal care, assistance and therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of Coconut Creek, our residents and families know that this is a community designed for you, with a lifestyle defined by you. Contact us to learn more!
Call us at 954-228-6252 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.