Choosing a nursing home: the sex factor

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Jun 28, 2012 in Nursing Home Information

There are many factors to consider when choosing a nursing home in West Virginia. Does the facility offer the level of care you or a loved one needs? Is it close enough to allow for regular visits by family and friends? Is it clean and orderly? Do there seem to be enough staff members on duty to meet the needs of the residents? Is there a high turnover rate among employees? Have there been complaints or official citations issued by the state? If so, have those problems been eliminated?

While the answers to these questions are important when choosing a nursing home -- researchers at the Australian Centre for Evidenced Based Age Care say the sex factor (i.e., a facility's policies regarding consensual sexual relationships between residents) should not be overlooked either.

As much as it might be uncomfortable to think about, volumes of research have established that opportunities for intimacy and sexuality continue to be important with respect to both physical health and a healthy sense of well-being later in life.

Yet according to the Aussie researchers, many nursing homes prohibit sexual relationships even among healthy and mentally competent residents. To deter such activity, many homes deny privacy to residents who have the desire to get "down under" with another resident and actively try to keep them away from potential sexual partners.

Although nursing home administrators and staff members say these measures are necessary to ensure resident safety, particularly with dementia patients (which may be true in some cases) -- many believe that competent residents and even those with mild dementia should not be denied the right to have sexual relationships.

Researchers say the evidence suggests that restricting personal autonomy with respect to sexual choices represents "a far greater failure of duty of care" than the harms that might result from allowing sexual activity among nursing home residents.

Source: New York Daily News, "More nursing-home sex needed, say old-age experts: Even protecting those with dementia called 'far greater failure' of care," Lindsay Goldwert, June 26, 2012

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