Posted on Oct 19, 2023, 4 p.m.
There is even more reason to enjoy a round of passion with your partner as a growing body of evidence suggests that sexual satisfaction among older adults could help to delay or prevent cognitive decline. Recent research from the Department of Family Sciences at the University of Kentucky adds another layer to the mounting evidence.
Allison Smith, MS, and associates wanted to explore what changes might occur over time in long-term cognitive status in relation to intimacy and sexuality among older adults. To do this they collected data from 155 participants to explore sexual satisfaction, romance with a partner, beliefs regarding sexuality, emotional intimacy, and social support. The team analyzed the data in relation to changes in cognitive status over a 10-year study period.
According to the researchers, 33.5% of the participants developed cognitive impairment during the course of the 10-year period, and those with greater levels of baseline sexual satisfaction were less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia. These findings are in line with results from other studies.
Throughout one’s lifetime, everyone experiences changes, including changes in intimacy and sexuality. These changes can occur for a variety of reasons, including mental decline and the development of diseases such as dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) which is the most common form of dementia, contributing to 60-70% of cases. AD can cause changes in both the individual and caregivers.
An individual typically experiences changes in memory and behaviors, becoming more stressed, worried, depressed, or becoming angrier are all common. The person may become clingier or forget having a life together with a caregiver. These changes could cause a caregiver to pull away from a person with dementia both physically and emotionally, as the demands on a caregiver are many. Learning how to cope with the changes and associated challenges of dementia takes much time, willpower, continuous effort, and support.
The changes may cause both people to lose interest in sex, caregivers may feel like it is wrong to have relations with a person with dementia, the person with dementia may forget who the other person is or even how to have sex, medications can affect interest in sex, and low self-esteem/depression can also affect levels of desire of both people. Hypersexuality can also happen in those with AD, this is when a person becomes overly interested in sex. Sometimes medication is required to help the person control their behaviors. But couples can find intimate/affectionate things to do together, like holding hands, cuddling, hugging, dancing, or nonsexual massage. Some caregivers partake in self-gratification to help meet their sexual needs.
While caring for a person it is important not to forget to take care of yourself. Support groups can be immensely valuable in many ways, and the relationships formed can help to get you through times when you feel overwhelmed and can’t carry on. Support groups are full of people who want to help because they know firsthand that everyone needs help from time to time, and that it is not breaking a trust or disloyalty to seek support from people outside of the partnership or family.
If you would like to learn more about dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the NIH has resources that can be viewed by clicking here, and the Alzheimer’s Association also has a lot of resources and support, click here to be taken to their website. Additionally, the ADEAR Center offers a variety of free resources for families and caregivers about Alzheimer’s and related dementia. The staff there can help you via email, phone, or written requests as well as provide referrals to other local or national resources.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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