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Intimacy and sexuality

Everyone has a need for companionship and physical intimacy. People with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia are no different. They may fill this need through marriage, partnership or friendship. Changes to the need for closeness and physical intimacy brought on by the disease will affect any relationship.

Expressions of physical intimacy between two people can range from a handshake and pat on the back between two colleagues, to hugs and strokes between friends, to sexual relations between lovers. The more intimate the forms of expression, the greater the need for privacy.

Relationships with partners are unique. Each person chooses the other for different reasons. Relationships can be straightforward or complex. Regardless of the type of relationship, it is important that it is satisfying for both people.

When one person has dementia, couples are often able to continue to have a close, intimate relationship for many years. When changes do affect the physical relationship, it is important to remember that every couple deals with these changes in their own way.

Note: For ease of reading, the term “partner” is used here to refer to the person with whom the person with dementia shares companionship and physical intimacy. This could be a spouse, partner, lover or friend.

For people with dementia

For partners

For health-care professionals

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