Care home workshops to tackle taboo around sex and dementia

Alzheimer’s Society has developed a workshop to help care homes break the taboo around the sex and intimacy needs of people with dementia, launching at the UK Dementia Congress in Brighton next week.

Our research revealed that the needs and rights of people in care homes are often overlooked when it comes to sex and intimacy, so we have worked with care professionals, people affected by dementia and other sector experts to create ‘Lift the Lid’ – a workshop in a box based on three creative activities to challenge perceptions and behaviours.

Feedback from care home staff was that some hadn’t considered residents' sex and intimacy needs before, while others didn’t know how to broach the subject or lacked clear guidance on it, and many had concerns about the consequences of in-the-moment situations.

With evidence suggesting care home staff wanted to get this right but didn’t know where to start, ‘Lift the Lid’ was designed to help them agree shared values and actions to take.

Colin Capper, Head of Research Development at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

'Sex and intimacy in the context of a care home raises countless questions that many people don’t know how to answer or don’t even want to think about – and when you consider that 70% of people in care homes are living with dementia, the conversation gets even more complicated.

'Many see this as a taboo topic, but we believe care home staff are best placed to tackle this challenge and make a real difference to the lives and loves of people with dementia. There is no 'one size fits all' solution but ‘Lift the Lid’ is a flexible tool to help care home staff talk through the issues in a creative and constructive way.

'Dementia research isn’t all about finding a cure; we’re also investing in vital care research and innovative projects like ‘Lift the Lid’, because we owe it to the 850,000 people in the UK currently living with dementia to understand the condition better so that they can live better.'

‘Lift the Lid’ was developed with input from the care sector and tested in 10 homes run by Bupa, Four Seasons Health Care, Berkley Care Group and the Orders of St Johns Care Trust.

A care team leader who tested the workshop said:

'This approach normalises a conversation that is needed but kept hidden, and gives staff understanding and confidence. This should be about dignified care and ‘Lift the Lid’ will help us to provide that.'

‘Lift the Lid’ is for all care home staff, regardless of seniority or role, but is especially valuable for care homes where residents are living with dementia. It can be run as one session of two to three hours, facilitated by a home manager or senior member of the care team, or split into three parts.

The workshop helps care homes put in place a sex and intimacy policy, so that staff feel confident they’re delivering holistic person-centred support in line with Care Quality Commission guidelines. It can also support care homes to achieve ‘Outstanding’ ratings, as it demonstrates commitment to diversity, inclusion, human rights, innovation, quality and responsiveness.

‘Lift the Lid’ launches at the UK Dementia Congress (6-8 November) and is already shortlisted in the National Dementia Care Awards 2018 as an outstanding innovation.

Order a workshop in a box

Once 'Lift the Lid' has launched, care homes will be able to order a workshop in a box by calling 0300 124 0900 or visiting Alzheimer's Society Online Shop.

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