Sexuality and Disability

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 489–509 | Cite as

Sexuality and Intimacy Behaviors in the Elderly with Dementia: The Perspective of Healthcare Professionals and Caregivers

  • Sarah Pinho
  • Henrique PereiraEmail author
Original Paper


This paper discusses sexuality and intimacy behaviors of the elderly with dementia living in residential care. The study explores this thematic from the perspectives of healthcare professionals and family caregivers. The methodology used is based on a qualitative method approach. The research was conducted in Portugal, using semi-structured face-to-face in-depth interviews. Thirty-two people participated in this study. The qualitative data was analyzed using thematic analysis to help identify repeated patterns of meaning in the dataset. The following key findings emerged: (1) participants identified the presence of sexuality, intimacy and sexual behavior in elderly people with dementia, primarily due to the physiological needs of individuals; (2) sexuality was mostly considered as an important manifestation of love, affectivity and proximity; (3) social and cultural beliefs influenced participant’s perception of the issue, some considering it a taboo subject; (4) participants expressed the need for these behaviors be considered natural and acceptable as sexuality and intimacy are inherent in humans and contribute to an individual’s quality of life hence they should also be dealt with in a practical manner; (5) a general limitation in training and institutional guidelines was identified; (6) decision-making in the area of sexuality should be determined by the elderly if they maintain the ability to manifest what their wishes are. As life expectancy increases along with dementia cases, a better understanding of sexuality in dementia, is of great importance as it could potentially help increased the quality of life for these individuals.


Dementia Sexuality Intimacy Healthcare professionals Family caregivers Residential care Portugal 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Social Sciences and HumanitiesUniversity of Beira InteriorCovilhãPortugal

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