Forming new relationships

A person with dementia is still capable of forming new and intimate relationships. Read our advice on supporting someone who may be forming these relationships. 

Family, and especially the children of people with dementia, can often feel uncomfortable in recognising that the person may still have sexual needs. They may also find it difficult if the person finds a new partner who appears to be taking the place of a parent who has died. However, if the person wants to pursue the relationship and is not at any risk of harm as a result, family and friends should try not to interfere.

As long as the person with dementia has the mental capacity to make decisions about their life, then it is important to respect this. Difficulties can arise. For example, it may appear that the person with dementia is being exploited or 'groomed' so people can take advantage of them. This can occur in residential settings or when the person is living in the community. For example, the person may build up a relationship with someone who is trying to make them part with their money.

Sometimes relationships break down between people with dementia and their partners. Some partners will opt to continue caring for a person even if their relationship has ended. This situation may be relatively simple for people to accept, or it may lead to conflict and distress for both parties, and for their families. It's important that both parties seek support and have an opportunity to talk about what they are feeling. You may wish to contact Alzheimer's Society's National Dementia Helpline or Relate, a voluntary group that offers confidential relationship counselling and advice. Alternatively, your GP surgery may offer a counselling service.

Forming new relationships in care homes

People with dementia in care homes may form new sexual relationships with other care home residents. As long as both parties agree and have capacity to consent to these relationships, then care home staff should respect such relationships.

It may be difficult for staff to balance residents' needs for privacy against their need to be cared for and looked after. For example, a person may need assistance washing and bathing directly following sex. Staff should also respect the confidentiality of relationships between residents and do not have to disclose information to relatives and other parties.

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