SHREVEPORT, La. --- Some residents of nursing homes, and long-term care facilities, are married or in meaningful relationships. In a 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (http://bit.ly/NEJMElderly) it is reported that 53% of people between the ages of sixty-five and 74 are sexually active. Despite this number decreasing to 26% for individuals aged between seventy-five and 85, sexual desire is present long into the lives of the aging. It is a safe supposition that the numbers break similarly in nursing homes, and long-term care facilities, which may, or may not, include geriatric patients.
Even though we are all aging, it is scientifically borne out in the above-referenced study that our need for intimacy exists long into our later lives. So how then, as uncomfortable as it may be for some of us to discuss, or ponder, are our loved ones able to continue to maintain their life-affirming loving relationships, while in care? This is, clearly, a delicate subject, but nevertheless a fact of living. Intimate relationships of our loved ones, are a fact of life, and a factor of a beneficial quality of life for us all.
When dealing with elderly parents, it is vital to recognize that the needs they had as younger people, may have presence in their current lives. It is irrational to believe it reasonable to interfere in the personal intimacies of consenting adults, who are of sound mind. It is their life, after all.
As it turns out, married couples in Louisiana which are separated by admission to long-term care facilities, are, in fact, permitted to participate in conjugal visits with their spouse, provided that the resident of that facility is of sound mind, and able to consent to, or request, such visitation.
"The nursing home is the resident's home. We want nursing home residents to have the freedom to make choices about the aspects of their life that are significant to them. Residents have a right to privacy that includes visits from spouses and others", said John Ford, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals in response to my questions.
While the state does offer assurance of intimate visits for residents in care, each facility may have its own rules regarding same. Please discuss this with the director of resident services or at the care plan intake conference, before admission, so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
Provided a resident meets those criteria, according to Diane Crouch, Ombudsman Coordinator at Caddo Council on Aging, “The facility is obliged to provide a private space in which such a visit would occur.” The Ombudsman’s office exists to assure, and advocate for, the rights of the resident, in all manner of concerns. I wasn’t certain what to expect when I called her office, but was greatly relieved to have been greeted with her professionalism, candor, and the dignified treatment of my question.
There are some restrictions to the privilege of intimate visitation, however. For example, if it comes to light that the spouse, or partner, of that resident had been abusive, unkind, dangerous, violent or, in any other way, undesirable to the resident prior to their admission to care, that resident has the right to refuse any such visits from that spouse. The facility is, therefore, obligated at all times, to assure the safety of that resident. Inclusive of taking measures to prevent access by the unapproved spouse.
All the aforementioned conditions apply, equally, to the intimate visitation of the unmarried, intimate, partner of the resident in care.
There are few significant rewards in life as we get older. Maintaining important physical and emotional human connections has just as much value to every adult... in the youthful, middle, or elder times in living. Human touch, and emotional closeness are immeasurably vital to a complete life. As long as the partner is not harmful, or dangerous, to the resident in long-term care, don’t they deserve happiness as much as anybody else?
If you have a question about patient care, or advocacy, please contact the editorial office of The Sun in confidence, with your request, and I will do my best to address reader concerns on the topic in future editions.Your identity will not be published, unless you specifically grant us permission to mention your name, and city information. Contact us by calling (318) 631-6222.
About the writer:
Marcinho Savant, a disabled Shreveport/Bossier resident, is a former health care worker in both private-duty, and institutional care environments. He is an author, entertainment executive, and nursing home survivor.
Words: 764 with Boilerplate
Marcinho Savant, a Shreve