Entries in Geriatric (2)


Nursing Home Sex Stifled by Safety Fears

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With single beds behind unlocked doors, nursing homes do little to support sex among seniors, argues an editorial that says the elderly -- even those with dementia -- retain the right to a healthy sex life.

The editorial, published Monday in the journal Public Health Ethics, tackles the touchy topic of geriatric sex just as the early baby boomers begin to hit their 70s.

But one in eight Americans over age 65 has Alzheimer's disease, a sobering stat that stokes safety fears among nursing home staff.

"[Nursing home] staff should keep in mind that persons with dementia have lived with their sexuality for much longer than they have lived with dementia," wrote the editorial's authors, from the Australian Center for Evidence-Based Aged Care at La Trobe University in Bundoora.  "It should not be up to the individuals with dementia to prove that they have the capacity to decide whether or not to engage in sexual behavior, but, rather, the onus is on staff to prove incontrovertibly that they do not."

Alzheimer's disease affects memory, thinking and behavior, raising delicate questions about a person's ability to make important decisions.

"A resident with dementia may not be able to render informed consent to an operation that has a significant risk of death but may be able to decide on what flavor of ice cream he would like for dessert," the authors wrote.  And, they argue, "decisions about whether or not to engage in sexual behavior are closer to those about ice cream than surgery."

Sexuality is considered a fundamental human right, say the authors.  And intimate relationships can help lessen feelings of loss and loneliness that come with age, says Robin Dessel, director of memory care services and sexual rights educator at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York.

"Older adults need to have pleasures, because that's what helps counterbalance the challenges they face when they become infirmed and move into a nursing home," said Dessel, who in 1995 helped draft the home's policies on sexual expression.  "Our general philosophy is that this is still a life to be lived.  Your rights carry with you throughout your lifetime.  It's not as though you arrive at a nursing home and you vacate those rights."

At the Hebrew Home, residents have access to private rooms, and staff members carefully read cues to ensure sexual relationships are consensual.

"I fully appreciate and never stand in judgment of nursing homes that are reluctant or concerned," said Dessel, explaining how the subject of sex can make some staff, not to mention residents' loved ones, uncomfortable.  "We have to safeguard older adults, but that doesn't mean medicalizing their lives."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Geriatric Care Panel Suggests New Fall Prevention Guidelines

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The American Geriatrics Society and the British Geriatrics Society recommended new prevention guidelines for elderly falls, stating that fall screening should be a part of all health care practices for older adults. 
A summary of the new guidelines was published in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and were compiled by a panel of specialists in fall prevention for the elderly after a series of randomized trials and extensive literature reviews and analyses.

The panel recommended that doctors and healthcare professionals try to determine whether older patients are at risks for falls by asking questions relating to fall frequency or unsteady walking.

"Falls are one of the most common health problems experienced by older adults and are a common cause of losing functional independence," said Dr. Mary Tinetti of Yale University School of Medicine and a panel chair.

The new guidelines focus on interventions including raising low blood pressure and managing heart rate and rhythm abnormalities, medication reduction, exercise or balance and gait strengthening and home and daily activity moderation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio