FEBRUARY 1, 2023
LOVE IS IN THE AIR
DEMENTIA AND RELATIONSHIPS
One can agree that to love and be loved is a magical feeling. People of all ages find joy in romantic relationships. However, these relationships can look different when a partner suffers from dementia or other cognitive disorder.
As cognitive disorders progress, the dynamics of your relationship shift. While your partner still desires your love and affection, there will be adjustments in how you express it. Physical intimacy within the relationship changes too. What was comfortable before might now cause distress – especially if your partner begins to forget who you are. It’s important to have a dialogue about this with your partner, if possible; and to also seek out support that can help you determine how you can ensure that your intimacy needs are met in a way that is respectful of your partner’s fluctuating boundaries.
Dementia and other cognitive disorders, of course, alter the way your partner thinks and acts. This may lead to:
- Saying or doing things in public that they would’ve only done in private before
- No, reduced, or increased interest in sex
- Lessened or enhanced ability to perform sexually
- Aggressiveness toward others
- Using sexualized language around others that hasn’t been heard before or that is out of character for them
- Mistaking someone else for their partner
- Making unwanted sexual advances toward someone who isn’t their partner
- Misinterpreting interactions of assistance, such as washing and dressing, as sexual
How You Can Help Your Partner
People with dementia often have trouble expressing their needs and feelings, so some of these behavioral changes could simply indicate that a need isn’t being met or that they are experiencing something else, such as:
- An infection
- Feeling too hot or too cold
- Lack of privacy
That being said, you can respond to inappropriate sexual behavior by:
- Distracting them or encouraging them to go somewhere else
- Steering the conversation to another topic, such as their favorite song or a memory from their childhood
- Letting them know that you’re married or in a relationship (if the person is not your partner)
- Politely, yet firmly, telling them that you’re uncomfortable and then walking away or getting assistance
To help loved ones with cognitive disorders comfortably meet their intimacy needs, consider:
- Encouraging friends and family to spend time with them – engaging in activities they enjoy
- Giving them a hug, sitting close to them, or holding their hand
- Giving them a blanket or soft toy to snuggle
- Offering a hand massage
How Long-Term Care Communities Can Help You and Your Partner:
Communities can help partners deal with changes by:
- Finding activities that the couple can still enjoy together
- Drawing attention away from a new relationship, which might upset the partner
- Providing overnight accommodations for couples who would like a bit more privacy
Relationships connect us to others in a way that is vital. Being loved and loving another feeds our soul. Dementia doesn’t change this. ALL of us deserve and are capable of giving and receiving love.
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Winter Growth’s founder dreamed of creating a community where seniors and adults with disabilities could continue to learn and grow – filling their lives with joy and purpose. For over 40 years, we have fulfilled her vision by providing unique, affordable Assisted Living/Memory Care and Adult Medical Day Care tailored to our clients’ individual abilities, interests, and lives.