Sex, intimacy and dementia

Dementia causes many changes in people's lives, including changes to sex and intimate relationships. Here we explain how dementia can affect the sexual feelings, desires and needs of people with dementia and their partners. 

Intimate relationships can take many different forms and sex is not important for everyone. Over time, some partners develop forms of physical intimacy, such as touching, that might not be what they had previously thought of as 'sex'. Keep an open mind about what 'sex' and 'intimacy' mean for you and your partner and focus on all the pleasurable aspects of your relationship.

Intimate relationships and dementia 

The onset of dementia does not have to signal the end of a healthy sex life. All relationships experience change over time. Many couples find that they can still be close through their sexual relationship even when other means of expression have diminished. Some couples even come to discover new and different ways of sharing closeness, comfort and intimacy.

Some people find that when they - or their partner - are diagnosed with dementia, this raises some questions about puzzling changes in their sex lives. Once dementia has been diagnosed, you can at least feel assured that these changes are not a reflection on either of you. You may also find it easier to understand what is happening.

For many couples coping with dementia, physical intimacy continues to be a rich source of mutual comfort, support and pleasure for many years.

Where sexual difficulties do arise, it's important to remember that there is no single 'normal' way of dealing with this very personal issue.

While it may be a difficult subject to discuss, you might find it helpful to talk to someone you trust. If you feel comfortable doing so, you may wish to talk to a good friend or family member. Alternatively, you could raise the issue in a carers support group to see how others in a similar situation have dealt with their experiences.

Further reading