Monday, 21 July 2014

Older People: Not Just Gardening and Knitting You Know!

I promised a week or so back that I'd tell you about the last essay that I wrote.  This rather apt cartoon reminded me  that it's about time that I came up with the goods. What I found out was that older people have sex! It is not just the preserve of young people with super fit perfect bodies as certain sectors of the media would have you believe.  Granted they don't have quite as much as the whipper snappers out there but there's still quite a lot of frollicking going on.  And lots of the articles that I read inspired hope, with personal accounts about how sex allowed people to maintain intimacy and closeness. It's not often that academic reading invoks any emotion at all. I was very touched.

I also found out that the late great Gary Kielhofner, who's as famous as it gets in the world of occupational therapy, didn't think that sexual activity was an occupation or in common parlance, a meaningful activity. He described it as something that we do to meet a biological need. For once, Gary I'm going to have to disagree.  That's just plain dumb.  I'm sorry that  you're no longer with us to argue back!

So if someone is diagnosed with dementia and has an active sex life it seems right that they should continue to do so in the interest of maintaining closeness etc,etc?  Well it's not as easy as that.  UK law is clear. Once a person loses capacity to consent then a person engaging in sexual acts with them becomes the perpetrator of a crime, even if they're a loving partner.  It's shocking isn't it?  However, it's not as simple as changing a law that was after all put in place to protect the vulnerable.  As we all know sex can be abusive.  In the case of someone with dementia, for example, would it still be a given right for a long term partner to expect sex even if the person does not recognise them anymore?  The Alzheimer's Society Factsheet Sex and Dementia  gives useful advice but doesn't seem to go far enough in explaining how consent can be given or indeed proved.  As my Masters study is meant to translate into practical action, I'll bring the topic up with the charity and see what they say.

1 comment:

  1. That's a tricky one. Fortunately, it doesn't apply here...