What happens with sex in an established relationship -- perhaps one that’s been going on for decades -- when dementia enters the picture? At first glance, one might guess that the couple is likely older and sex isn’t happening anyway. Secondly, many may feel that the dementia will only bring the couple further apart and therefore extinguish what glimmer of sexual activity was happening.
While it is true that sexual behavior does diminish with age, most would be surprised at the degree to which sexual activity and romance does continue between many older couples. In such couples, there is often a very special bond of intimacy and the onset of dementia is far from a barrier to them. To some degree this is dependent upon the emotion reactions of the affected partner but it is not uncommon at all that this disease may actually bring the couple even closer together. It is kind of like stroke disease, where a person with a left sided stroke may be no longer able to speak but can still sing a song fluently. Similarly, someone with dementia may not be able to communicate verbally or cognitively to their partner but may do a very good job at sexual or sensual communication.
From my experience, the partners of dementia patients are usually more than willing to have continued sex as well. Not only are they interested in providing whatever they can to add to the quality of life of the dementia victim but also they have their own needs for intimacy in the relationship - perhaps even more so that the patient.
Douglas Wornell is the author of Sexuality and Dementia:Compassionate and Practical Strategies for Dealing with Unexpected or Inappropriate Behaviors. Check out his book for more tips and advice on living with or taking care of a person with dementia.