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Dementia and changes in sexual behaviour

It’s often a difficult subject to talk about, but dementia can cause your loved one to experience changes in sexual behaviour, needs and interests. For example, this can include changes in intimacy in a relationship or unrequited sexual interest. 

Only 15% of people would be comfortable talking about changes in sexual behaviour as a symptom of dementia, our research found. But it’s important to understand why these changes happen and how to deal with them. Watch the video below to hear from our dementia specialists and families who have supported their loved ones with these changes. 

The Big Dementia Conversation: Changes in sexual behaviour

Why do people living with dementia experience changes in sexual behaviour? 

As we age, we continue to form relationships and look for comfort and security from partners, and this doesn’t change just because someone receives a dementia diagnosis.

When a loved one is living with dementia, you may notice changes in their intimacy or sexual behaviour, such as: 

    • Forming a relationship with another person living in the same care home 
    • Being sexually inappropriate in public 
    • Not wanting sex or being more sexually active 
    • Mistaking someone else for their husband or wife 
    • In rare cases being aggressive

These changes in behaviour can be caused by memory loss, a loss of inhibitions or an expression of desire for companionshipAlthough it can be uncomfortable for family members, it is a natural response when a person is looking for comfort and security. 

 

It’s a very human thing to build a relationship. We don’t normally spend our lives as an island, as an individual. We like to be in a partnership arrangement.

Suzanne MumfordCare UK's Head of Nursing, Care and Dementia

How to support someone with dementia whose sexual behaviour changes 

For someone living with dementia, changes in sexual behaviour can occur alongside a loss in inhibitions and other changes in personality. As their dementia progresses, it’s important that they are still supported to receive the comfort they need and maintain their dignity. 

At Care UK, we consider why a person living with dementia is looking for comfort and how that need can be fulfilled, for example giving their partner the opportunity to spend the night in the care home so they can be together as they would have been throughout their marriage and recognising the need for privacy when visiting. 

These situations can be challenging and confusing for the person with dementia and their family, but our teams at Care UK are always here to support you with open and honest conversations. 

The Big Dementia Conversation 

We want to get the nation talking about dementia and some of the most difficult topics associated with the condition. Explore more articles in our online advice hub to take a closer look at the less-talked-about symptoms of dementia and how to navigate them. You can also discover more advice and support on our dementia help & advice page.