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SEXUALITY AND DEMENTIA

Balancing resident rights and safety.

Excerpted from an article by Lee Ann Griffen in the Florida Health Care Association’s newsletter
“Pulse”.

“Competent residents engaging in consensual sexual activity is not a cause for undue concern in
assisted living, especially considering many residents have their own rooms which they call
home. CMS’ interpretation of Home and Community-Based Characteristics for assisted living
clients who receive Medicaid services takes this further, providing individuals the right to have
visitors of their choosing at any time.

Assisted living communities may specialize in accommodating residents who have cognitive
impairments. It’s important to recognize that cognitive impairments do not necessarily make a
person ineligible for sexual activity. However, administrators and professional staff must try to
differentiate between intimacy and abuse. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sexuality and
dementia.

A clinical assessment must occur in order to determine consent. Guidance may be found at
www.nih.gov/ ; search Intimacy and Sexuality. It should be noted that a person’s right to make
choices is not invalidated solely because the staff does not agree. Staff should be educated on
distinguishing between their own values and the values of the residents.

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