By Stacy Lloyd
A medical ethicist and a team of Australian researchers say nursing homes should not discourage residents from having sex.
Research by the Australian Centre for Evidence Based Aged Care, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics (JME), stated that sexual freedom is considered a fundamental human right by most Western societies.
While laws regarding consent and coercion must be abided, in general, people should be able to engage in sexual behavior whenever, and with whomever, they choose.
Nonetheless sexual relationships are often a no-no for many competent and healthy elderly people in residential aged care facilities, reported the New York Daily News.
Art Caplan, a medical Ethicist at the New York University Langone Medical Center, told Medscape that one of the reasons for this is that nursing homes are set up to give people very little privacy for legal and safety reasons.
FoxNews added concerns about “duty of care, anxieties about potential repercussions from relatives and ageism are other reasons nursing home staffs deny privacy or separate potential partners, according to the Australian researchers.”
New York Daily News said that nursing home staffs receive little training on the sex lives of the elderly, focusing primarily on their ability to make decisions and provide consent.
Many simply don’t look at the elderly as mature adults, but as children who must be policed.
For older people with dementia living in residential aged care facilities the issue becomes more complex, wrote the researchers in the JME.
However, the JME article added that even elderly people in the early stages of dementia still enjoy sexual relationships.
Researchers argued that even when a person receives a poor score on a mini mental state test which assesses cognitive impairment, they are often still capable of expressing preferences for a friend or lover, wrote FoxNews.
Intimate relationships can help lessen feelings of loss and loneliness that come with age, Robin Dessel, director of memory care services and sexual rights educator at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York, told ABC News.
The good news is, in response to the topic of geriatric sex, some facilities such as the Hebrew Home are establishing policies to ensure staff support for residents’ rights, wrote AgingWell.com.
“Clinical staff needs to understand that elderly long-term care residents have very real sexual needs that might exceed what staff would consider their clinical needs,” Dessel told AgingWell.com.
Caplan believes this awkward topic of geriatric sex should be discussed by doctors with patients and families as someone prepares to enter a nursing home because, as he stated, sex is a part of old age.
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