Challenging Behaviors for the Caregiver
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By Marilynn Larkin
Sex and intimacy are basic human needs, and the mental and emotional deterioration associated with Alzheimer's disease has varying effects on these needs. Spouses who are caregivers usually find that their sex live deteriorates as the disease runs it course.
Spouses may feel turned off by their mate now that they have taken on a 'parenting' role. Others, are upset by the lack of intimacy and the realization that it will eventually disappear completely. Spouses know that if not now, then in the relatively near future they will no longer share the affection and sexual satisfaction they may have had with their mate prior to the disease. It is important to maintain as much physical contact as possible to convey caring, loving feelings. This may be in the form of hugging, holding hands, massaging, stroking, and patting. Caregivers can seek the advise of a psychotherapist or counselor who is familiar with Alzheimer's disease on how to cope with their feelings of sexual loss.
Although some people with Alzheimer's lose interest in sex early in the course of the disease, others may express more interest or make advances toward people who they believe to be their spouse This which can be friends, neighbors as well as their children.
Another aspect of Alzheimer's is that those with the disease may engage in inappropriate sexual behavior such as masturbating or undressing in public. Such behaviors usually are not motivated by sexual desire as much as they are by an internal or external cue. A woman my take off her blouse, for example, because the room is to hot; a man may remove his pants because he needs to go to the toilet. Men and women who masturbate may be seeking the good feelings it brings or relieving frustrations. Some men will reach out and touch a woman's breast or try to hug her because they want attention or comfort.
Regardless of why individuals act out these situations, do not get angry or laugh, even though you may be embarrassed. Quietly tell them that the behavior is not appropriate and lead them to the bathroom or out of the public eye. If the person seem in need of affection, try to increase the amount of attention you give them. Hold their hand, give them a hug, or reach out and pat their arm occasionally.
Finally, if men or women with Alzheimer's makes inappropriate advances towards their own children, be aware that this in not incestuous behavior. There is no question that Alzheimer's disease takes a terrible toll on the individual's personality, moods, and behaviors. At the same time these changes can be very painful for the caregiver, who continues to live and care for someone who slowly becomes a stranger. It takes a great deal of courage and fortitude to continue in the caregiving role when someone you love and respect becomes a shadow of their former self. Your patience, sensitivity, and perhaps most of all a sense of humor can help you get through this trying period.
When Someone You Love Has Alzheimer's
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