Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Q: My father is in a nursing home community (my mother died many years ago). I just learned that he has had multiple sexual partners at the community. What do I do?

Well, nursing home sex is sort of a shock, I’ll admit. As Dad’s caregiver, you have some insight for the first time into his sex life – in an assisted living community – and that’s unsettling. Especially if it’s not the type of behavior that you agree with.

I think that we all somehow think that when a person ages they no longer enjoy that part of a relationship. Especially with a parent in an altered mental, physical or cognitive state, you may not expect these things to happen.

But clearly that’s not always the case. I hear frequently from caregivers that residents often create sexual relationships in nursing home. The way I recommend responding to this starts with separating your role as his child from being the person who facilitates your father’s care.

First, let’s think of this from a health standpoint. Is this sexual activity consensual? Are the participants aware enough to give consent? Are they healthy? You don’t want anyone forcing themselves on others. Nor do you want anyone being abusive, being abused, or spreading sexually transmitted diseases.

Cross those concerns off your checklist first by doing a little research to gather the facts about this nursing home sex situation. Can you have this conversation with your father directly? If not, then go to someone in the residential care community who is familiar with your dad’s activities and care.

Once you have more information about what’s happening, then take that to a professional at the facility – someone who is ethically sound and clinically responsible. The truth is that if your dad is having sex in the nursing home, he’s not the only one. Ask how this type of activity is viewed and/or resolved in this community. What is the clinician’s professional opinion?

In my view, the best-case scenario is that your dad is having meaningful sexual encounters at this time of his life in a responsible way. Sexuality is part of our human nature, it’s a primitive need and it helps us connect with others. Along with eating and sleeping, it is an important way for us to self-soothe.

You may simply need to destigmatize the idea for yourself. Just because your father is older and living in assisted care doesn’t mean he can’t still connect with others sexually. That’s ageism, and it’s unfair.

We know from research that maintaining human connection is linked directly to living longer. In fact, it has a greater influence on longevity than indulging in negative health behaviors. That’s because we are emotional creatures. There’s something cathartic and powerful about being engaged in a sense of belonging.

If your dad suffers from a syndrome like dementia, he may not fully know his partner (or partners). He may not be in love with them, and may not even remember them the next day. I wouldn’t assume that’s an automatic “no” for nursing home sex. Plenty of us have met someone one evening, found them compelling, then realized that we don’t really want to know more about each other.

It’s also highly possible that your father’s partner may have the same rules of engagement. Maybe both are just looking for a moment of comfort at a difficult time.

Step back from judgment, and focus on whether or not anyone is getting hurt or has the potential to get hurt. If yes, then sound the alarm. But what I wouldn’t do is tell your dad that nursing home sex is wrong. Shaming, guilting and judging won’t help anyone, especially someone with cognitive issues.

Get Our FREE Downsizing Checklist

Pete Shrock is a nationally recognized thought leader on life coaching and grief. At Legacy Navigator he develops the programs and team members who provide compassion-focused services to our clients.

Click here to read more Ask Pete.Click here to send us your questions

We provide our DIY information as a service to families settling estates or helping with a family member’s transition to assisted living. If your project is too large or complicated to manage yourself, give us a call anytime for a free consultation: 800-913-7747.

Our advice is based on our experience cleaning out and settling estates for our clients. Each project is different, and each state's laws are different. We always recommend that you consult personally with experts about your particular situation before making any important decisions.

Related Posts