Alzheimer’s and Intimacy
If you are a spouse to someone who has Alzheimer’s or any other related dementia, you probably have realized changes in your interactions with your loved one. Changes in many facets of everyday life is part of being a family caregiver. One of the most difficult changes to manage are changes in intimacy. We define intimacy very broadly, ranging from having conversations to spending quality time together to romance. Navigating these changes can be stressful and very challenging to cope with. Today, we hope to provide some things to consider as a spouse and a family caregiver.
Here are some tips:
- Make sure your partner feels loved: Alzheimer’s and related dementias can change people’s moods, behaviors, and abilities. The stress you may be feeling as a caregiver is probably felt ten-fold by your loved one experiencing these changes. We encourage that you try to remember to love your spouse and to make sure they know you care. Tell them how much you care for them and that you want them to feel safe and secure. Remind them that other people, like family members, also care very much about them. As for yourself, you can seek support by confiding in friends and family, seeing a therapist, or going to an Alzheimer’s support group.
- Remember that your loved one is still there: Caregiving for a spouse with a degenerative neurological disorder can often seem like you are caring for a different person. This can be shocking because it feels as if you’ve lost your loved one. But you haven’t. Just like in any relationship, this means you have to be attentive to new needs that arise and to learn about the feelings and emotions your loved one is feeling. It can be challenging at times, but there are plenty of resources that exist for you online, through support groups, or in therapy.
- Managing changes in sexual intimacy: This topic can be difficult to breach. Sometimes, people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s can still make conscious decisions about their body, and in some cases, being romantic and physically intimate is okay. However, as the disease progresses, your loved one may lose the ability to have complete autonomy over his or her decisions. In which cases, it is likely inappropriate to be romantic or have sex with them since your loved one may not be able to consent reliably. In other cases, people who have Alzheimer’s may experience an increased sex drive, yet this does not necessarily mean they want to have sex since it is a symptom of their changing brain chemistry. To manage these difficult situations, we encourage that you see a therapist so you know how to respond to your loved one and your own feelings about the matter. Additionally, you can show intimacy in other, less sexual ways, like through hugging, dancing, and physical touch.
If you have any other questions about what resources exist for you, feel free to call ElderCare at 888-285-0093 or visit our website!