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Sexually Inappropriate Behavior in Dementia Patients

Seeing a loved one with dementia perform sexually inappropriate behaviors can be quite distressing. They could act inappropriately toward their spouse, children, or caregivers due to confusion and a number of other factors. But what causes these behaviors? And how can we deal with them? In this post, we will review everything you need to know about frontal lobe dementia and sexually inappropriate behaviors.

Types of Sexually Inappropriate Behavior in the Elderly

Dementia and sexually inappropriate behavior can manifest in various ways. These include:

  • Making sexually inappropriate comments

  • Public masturbation

  • Undressing in public

  • Touching someone inappropriately

  • Confusing other family members, friends, or caregivers as an intimate partner

But what causes these sexually inappropriate behaviors in dementia patients? In the next section, we will review some of these root causes.

Causes of Sexually Inappropriate Behavior in the Elderly

It’s important to remember that when people with dementia engage in sexually inappropriate behaviors, they are not doing it on purpose. The relationship between Alzheimer's and sexually inappropriate behavior can be quite complicated. It can be caused by a need for intimacy, love, or comfort.

However, these sexually inappropriate behaviors may have nothing to do with sex at all. Discomfort, pain, or confusion can also cause these behaviors. For example, they may remove their clothes or masturbate in public simply because they do not realize they aren’t in a private place. This can be their way of expressing that they need to use a toilet or that they are uncomfortable. Furthermore, the individual may be confused about who a person is or might have forgotten they already have a spouse

Lastly, we will review ways to handle sexually inappropriate behavior in dementia patients.

Ways To Handle Sexually Inappropriate Behavior in the Elderly

Now that we know a little more about some of the triggers for this behavior, we can discuss ways to combat sexually inappropriate behavior in the elderly. Below are some tips but if you are still at a crossroads, be sure to discuss these concerns with a doctor.

  • Manage sexually inappropriate behaviors as they happen. Gently but firmly tell them their behavior is inappropriate and have your body language match your words. People with dementia are better at reading nonverbal cues such as a frown or a shaking head.

  • Make sure other people are aware of these behaviors. Advise these individuals to step away if they occur. Furthermore, if your loved one tends to be grabby, be sure to leave enough space between them and other people.

  • Keep them occupied with other activities or comfort objects. Turn on the TV, offer a snack, or provide a blanket or stuffed animal if they need an alternative to cuddling.

  • Make it difficult to remove clothing. If they tend to remove their clothes in public, get them clothing that closes in the back so it's harder for them to remove.

  • Be calm if they confuse you for a sexual partner. Try not to act offended or scold them. This could embarrass them. Instead, gently and privately remind them who you are.

  • Prepare for this behavior in an assisted living facility. If your loved one needs to stay in a facility, do some research on that facility’s policies on sexual relationships and sexually inappropriate behavior.

For romantic partners: Give extra physical affection when appropriate. Extra hugs, kisses, or hand-holding can give them a sense of comfort from being with the one they love and trust. However, that does not mean you need to sacrifice your own boundaries. Organize separate sleeping arrangements if necessary.