Let's talk about the 's' word!

Supporting the sexuality and intimacy needs of care home residents

Basic human needs relating to sexuality, intimacy, and relationships are important for adults of all ages. However, for older people living in care homes, even the simple, intimate behaviours that many of us take for granted, such as sharing a cuddle with a partner, can become impossible. This can be particularly problematic for residents with cognitive impairment, or high levels of dependency, where issues of safeguarding, personal responsibility, and capacity to consent add complexity. Residents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) may face additional challenges, such as judgement, discrimination and social exclusion from others.

In this seminar, we focused on some of the issues that care homes face in trying to support residents with their sexuality and intimacy needs, and the innovative solutions that are being proposed. Dr Laura Brown presented recent work done by the Older People’s Understanding of Sexuality’ (OPUS) research team on skilling up care home staff to better support their residents’ sexuality and intimacy needs. Beverley Page-Banks shared the outputs of a recent Alzheimer’s Society Innovation project on meeting the sex and intimacy needs of people living with dementia. Neil Allen talked about human rights and mental capacity around intimate relationships.

The event was chaired by Dr Christine Brown Wilson from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University in Belfast, who is a registered nurse with an international research profile in ageing and dementia.