Improving knowledge and attitudes of sexuality for people with dementia

Improving the knowledge and attitudes concerning sexual expression of people with dementia amongst health professionals, has been the goal of a Griffith study.

Dr Cindy Jones from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland has been educating and researching what is commonly seen as a challenging and sometimes taboo issue in aged care.

Her research is just one of the subjects being discussed this September at Griffith during Dementia Awareness Month 2017, the theme of which is “You are not alone”.

A webinar training program

Using a webinar training program to assist health professionals in a variety of care settings, Dr Jones study aimed to increase awareness and understanding of intimacy, sexualities and sexual behaviours specific to people with dementia.

“As well as increasing awareness of the issues, we have also been guiding formal carers on how to better support people with dementia on these challenging issues,” she says.

Thestudyevaluated the utility, quality and effectiveness ofsix, once a week 1.5 hourinteractive live webinars focused on the expression of sexuality by people with dementia living in residential aged care facilities.

104 aged care workers and health professionals were involved in the study.

Most participants were female with an average age of42 years and an undergraduate qualification.

“Results demonstrated significant improvements in participants’ knowledgeand attitudesassessedfollowing the webinars,” says Dr Jones. “Not only were the webinars positively received, but practice change was also reported from newly gainedknowledge or skills.

“Thisstudydemonstrates the acceptability and effectiveness of interactive live webinars in workforce education for a topic considered ethically challenging for some dementia care philosophies. It is recommended that webinar formats be considered in the suite of education delivery options that may offer equity of access for rural and remote areas of Australia.

“Overall, from the research evidence we are receiving from health professionals and carers of those with dementia, we can see that there have been some positive shifts in both knowledge and attitude.

Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests that aged care facilities should have this type of training due to the importance of the issue in the lives of people with dementia.

“Others have told us that it has improved the communication they have with residents regarding dealing with these issues.

“The important message is that expression of sexuality is a part of life no matter what age we are, and regardless of whether people have dementia,” says Dr Jones.