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Nursing home sex: An emotional outlet or a safety issue?

June 27, 2012
by Sandra Hoban
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Many older adults continue to express love and affection through sexual activity when they live independently. When, however, nursing home care is required, sex is hampered and residents have to “sneak around” to express their affections.

Research from the Australian Centre for Evidence-Based Aged Care at LaTrobe University concluded that for most elders who enjoy sex—even those in the early stages of dementia—nursing home administration discourages this expression. Researchers found that nursing homes are concerned about safety issues such as falls, family displeasure and privacy.

Often nursing home staffs treat residents as children that need to be supervised rather than adults because of the fear of legal and medical repercussions.

The research, recently published in Journal of Medical Ethics, expressed its concern on how nursing homes handle this sensitive issue: “Since it has been well established that sexuality and intimacy continue to be important later in life and are central to an individual’s health and wellbeing, the lack of attention paid by aged care facilities to residents’ sexual needs is concerning.”

Fear of sexually transmitted disease (STD) is also part of the equation. An Orlando Sentinel study of CDC data between 2005 and 2009 showed a 43 percent jump in reported cases of syphilis and chlamydia in adults over 55 years of age. To address this concern, a new website promotes the use of condoms for seniors, www.Saferse4seniors.org.

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