Saturday, June 14, 2014

Older Adult Sexuality Education of Doctors and Nurses (Research, Video 5:40)

Sex is an American taboo that many people still avoid discussing, particularly when it relates to older adults. Inaccurate stereotypes often surface during sexuality conversations. Why is an old man interested in sex called a “dirty old man,” but an interested young man isn’t? Why do people think the elderly outgrow all their sexual desires? Sex doesn’t belong to youth, and safe sex practices belong to all ages.

Healthcare professionals must address the sexual health concerns of older adults. They should acknowledge and support patients’ desires to function sexually within their abilities. In fact, healthcare professionals should initiate these discussions. But how knowledgeable are they about how to do this? Research on older adult sexuality was done with US physicians and nurse practitioners in primary care. While knowledge scores reflected good knowledge, only 3% of the sample felt they had adequate knowledge of older adult sexuality. Training was found to be adequate for only 11% of the sample. Clearly, primary care providers need more training about older adult sexuality.

Older adults are increasingly becoming more sexually active in various ways. It is natural, and many need help in this area. Often, they were raised in an environment where they are still uncomfortable discussing sex, even with healthcare professionals. Any discussion of older adults and sex must include the importance of their using safe sex practices. HIV/AIDS is an illness of older adults, too. Because many women in this population are postmenopausal, they may not use condoms with the vigilance they would for preventing pregnancy. More sexual experimentation, including some increased by drugs like Viagra, also promotes the likelihood of unprotected sex. In addition, online dating and the proliferation of older adult communities demand commitments to not taking sexual risks.

The following video shares general information about sexuality decisions that healthcare providers should be prepared to use as interventions for older adult sexuality:

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

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