How should a caregiver respond to a loved one who is exhibiting hypersexuality behaviors?

Hypersexuality can be defined as extremely frequent or suddenly increased sexual urges or sexual activity.

Hypersexuality happens because of a loss of impulse control, a lost sense of appropriate public or private behavior, or because of difficulty in reading another person’s emotions.

Some examples of these sexual behaviors can include inappropriate sexual comments, sexual advances to others, talking about sex constantly, undressing or touching themselves in public.

Oftentimes, the individual with Alzheimer’s might make sexual advances to someone who they mistake for their partner, but rarely do these behaviors involve sexual arousal.

Not only are these behaviors uncomfortable and embarrassing for the caregiver, but they can be very confusing and distressing for the affected individual, especially since they can’t understand why this particular behavior is inappropriate.

Reassuring the individual with Alzheimer’s disease is vital in minimizing hypersexual behaviors. Providing comforting hugs, gentle back and/or shoulder rubs, listening to favorite music selections and even dancing can be a means of redirection during these particular behaviors. The need for touch can be handled by giving the individual a soft stuffed animal or warm blanket to stroke.

Additionally, oftentimes just brushing the hair with a comb or soft brush can suffice for the yearning of intimacy the affected individual is experiencing.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s are keenly aware of nonverbal cues, so when the inappropriate behavior begins to occur, the caregiver can show his/her aversion by frowning or shaking his/her head. Also, it helps to be consistent. The caregiver can’t encourage fondling one day and then react negatively the next. Boundaries need to be set.

The desire for intimacy and sexual urges don’t necessarily fade when an individual has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Intimacy can be a source of comfort and pleasure or a source of anxiety and confusion. Both reactions are very normal. However, in extreme cases of hypersexuality, consult a physician.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.