Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sex and dementia: Maree McCabe on 774 ABC Melbourne

Alzheimer's Australia Victoria chief executive officer Maree McCabe spoke on radio 774 ABC Melbourne about sex and dementia recently.
I listened to the radio segment that night, as interested as ever about a topic which is endlessly intriguing: dementia, and what makes the mind tick. Add the taboo topic of sex, in the mix of the already misunderstood world of dementia, and it makes for exceptional listening and learning.
Maree said family members were often uncomfortable with their parents or grandparents forming sexual relationships while in residential aged care.

Maree McCabe
Alzheimer's Victoria are co-presenting the 'Lets Talk About Sex' conference in Melbourne in September, which will focus on the issues older people face regarding intimacy and relationships.
"It's actually a social issue, we are very ageist about sex," Maree told 774 ABC Melbourne.
"If you talk to someone and suggest their grandparents might have sex, people recoil in horror."
This is completely true. How many times have you heard a very juvenile, "Eeeeww!" when the topic of sex and dementia comes up? I think it's ageism at its ugliest.
Maree said aged care facilities often have no idea how to approach the topic of their residents' sexuality. An example: when dementia sufferers are found to be in possession of pornography.

"[The care facility] often don't know how to deal with it, and what they'll do is they'll confiscate materials," Maree said.

"That can increase challenging behaviours [from the resident]." 

Maree said the discussion of sex and dementia often centred on consent, adding that a person could be affected by dementia and still have the capacity to consent to sex.

"Capacity is not a blanket you-have-it-or-you-don't, it's actually something that is very complex to assess," she said.

"Whilst somebody may not be able to balance their bank account they may very well have the capacity to choose the food that they eat, for example."

Maree said the 'Lets Talk About Sex' conference was an opportunity to have frank discussions about the sexual needs of aged care residents. 

"This is a really complex issue and it highlights for us the need to be able to have these conversations in a respectful way that honours people's rights and their choices and supports them in having a life that is meaningful for them in the areas of sex and intimacy," she said.

To hear the entire interview, click here.

I deal with the topic of sex and dementia in my book 'The Australian Ageing Generation Handbook'. Click here for more about the book.