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Understanding and Perceptions of Long-Term Caregivers Regarding Sexuality of Elderly Residents

1 August 2006


Background: In the elderly, the desire for sex is often not addressed in the medical interview. Consequently, the sexual activities and desires of elderly patients residing in nursing homes and assisted living facilities often go overlooked. In general, healthcare workers may be embarrassed to ask patients if they have specific concerns regarding sexual activity such as a need for more privacy, concerns about sexual dysfunction or sexual partners. In addition, healthcare workers might feel that inquiring about patients' sexual practices may be misconstrued and perhaps lead to inappropriate behavior toward the practitioner. It has been hypothesized that the educational and clinical exposure of health care workers to issues of sexuality in the elderly can improve communication, understanding and addressing of the sexual needs of nursing home residents.

Objective: The purpose of this study was (1) to assess healthcare workers' attitudes and perceptions regarding the sexual activity of elderly patients residing in long-term care facilities; (2) to correlate demographics with the sexual perceptions and attitudes of health care workers regarding their elderly patients; and (3) to assess the need for further sexual education among healthcare professionals.

Design: Questionnaire created by the primary investigator.

Setting: Long-term care facilities for residents in Eugene and Roseburg, Oregon.

Participants: Healthcare workers employed at long-term care facilities. Measurements: Questionnaires measured the demographic data of the participants, their attitudes, perceptions and experiences regarding elderly sexual activity while residing at the long-term care facility. This 28-question paper survey was distributed during staff meetings following a brief description of the project and collected along with an informed consent from each participant.

Results: A total of 41 participants completed surveys. Most of the participants had similar educational background, i.e. high school diploma, but the years of health care experience varied. The years of experience working in healthcare were compared to selected questions such as the concept that sexual desire continues throughout life, the appropriateness of residents' sexual activity and the workers' experience as it relates to their level of comfort in addressing residents' sexual concerns.

Conclusions: There is a need for an increased education for healthcare workers regarding the sexual activity of elderly residents residing in long-term care facilities.


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