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Senior couple with alzheimer's diseaseIntimacy is the special bond we share with a person we love and respect. It involves the way we talk and act toward one another. This bond can exist between spouses or partners, family members, and friends. Sexuality is one type of intimacy. It is an important way that spouses or partners express their feelings physically for one another. Alzheimer’s Disease often changes the intimacy and sexuality between people.

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In This Article:

Sexuality and Intimacy Changes Caused by Alzheimer’s Disease

How To Cope with Changes in Intimacy

How To Cope with Changes in Sexuality
Hypersexuality in Alzheimer’s Paients

Alzheimer’s Disease can cause changes in intimacy and sexuality in both the person with Alzheimer’s Disease and the caregiver. The person with Alzheimer’s may be stressed by the changes in his or her memory and behaviors. Fear, worry, depression, anger, and low self-esteem (how much the person likes himself or herself) are common. The person may become dependent and cling to you. He or she may not remember your life together and feelings toward one another. Sometimes the person may even fall in love with another person.

You, the caregiver, may pull away from the person in both an emotional and physical sense. You may feel upset by the demands of caregiving. You also may feel frustrated by the person’s constant forgetfulness, repeated ques, tions, and other bothersome behaviors.

Most caregivers learn how to cope with these challenges, but it takes time. Some learn to live with the illness and find new meaning in their relationships with people who have Alzheimer’s Disease .

How To Cope With Changes In Intimacy

Remember that most people with Alzheimer’s Disease need to feel that someone loves and cares about them. They also need to spend time with other people as well as you. Your efforts to take care of these needs can help the person with Alzheimer’s to feel happy and safe.

It is important to reassure the person that:

  • You love him or her.
  • You will keep him or her safe.
  • Others also care about him or her.

When changes in intimacy happen, the following tips may help you cope with your own needs:

  • Talk with a doctor, social worker, or clergy member about these changes. It may feel awkward to talk about such personal issues, but it can help.
  • Talk about your concerns in a support group.
  • Think more about the positive parts of the relationship.

How To Cope With Changes In Sexuality

The well spouse/partner or the person with Alzheimer’s Disease may lose interest in having sex. This change can make you feel lonely or frustrated. Here are some possible reasons for changes in sexual interest.

The well spouse/partner may feel that:

  • It’s not okay to have sex with someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • The person with Alzheimer’s Disease seems like a stranger.
  • The person with Alzheimer’s Disease seems to forget that the spouse/partner is there or how to make love.

A person with Alzheimer’s Disease may have:

  • Side effects from medications that affect his or her sexual interest
  • Memory loss, changes in the brain, or depression that affects his or her interest in sex.

Here are some suggestions for coping with changes in sexuality:

  • Explore new ways of spending time together.
  • Focus on other ways to show affection. Some caregivers find that snuggling or holding hands reduces their need for a sexual relationship.
  • Focus on other ways to show affection.
  • Try other nonsexual forms of touching, such as giving a massage, hugging, and dancing.
  • Consider other ways to meet your sexual needs. Some caregivers report that they masturbate to meet their needs.

Hypersexuality In Alzheimer’s Patients

Sometimes, people with Alzheimer’s Disease are overly interested in sex. This is called "hypersexuality." The person may masturbate a lot and try to seduce others. These behaviors are symptoms of the disease and don’t always mean that the person wants to have sex.

To cope with hypersexuality, try giving the person more attention and reassurance. You might gently touch, hug, or use other kinds of affection to meet his or her emotional needs. Some people with this problem need medicine to control their behaviors. Talk to the doctor about what steps to take.

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Source: National Institute on Aging

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