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Tackling taboos

There is a need for sexual expression no matter what a person’s age or disability, expert tells forum.

The usually taboo subject of dementia and sex was the topic of conversation last week at Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria’s Dementia and Sexuality Evening, held at the University of Melbourne, Hawthorn campus.

“There is no one size fits all,” said Adjunct Associate Professor Sally Garratt who presented at the forum and introduced her book, ‘Understanding Dementia Care and Sexuality in Residential Facilities’.

“Sexuality is not lost just because a person receives a diagnosis of dementia. There is a need for sexual expression no matter what a person’s age or disability.

“A person with dementia is no less a person because of a diagnosis of dementia or their age and will have a need for sexual expression in some form.

“The subject of sexuality is, by its very nature, difficult particularly with issues around rights and duty of care in a residential context,” said Garratt.

Garratt was joined by an expert panel including Anna Makedonskaya, community care trainer; Liz Fenwick, former carer of husband who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 54; Jenne Perlstein, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic educator and, Helen Rushford from the Office of Public Advocate.

The seminar was hosted by leading ABC Radio National journalist and broadcaster, Peter Mares.

Mares facilitated the program and discussion aimed at providing strategies in response to a sample case study with further detail offered in Garratt’s book.

As a national project, Alzheimer’s Australia developed the new Quality Dementia Care (QDC) book and seminar series with Garratt to help those that care for a person with dementia, whether they are un-paid or paid carers, respond appropriately to the challenging situations that can arise.

“Carers of people with dementia may find themselves in embarrassing or potentially dangerous situations if the person they care for expresses their sexuality in public.

“With such a complex and confronting subject, the aim of the seminars is to equip carers with different strategies that they may be able to employ in different situations, not to provide all the answers,” said Maree McCabe, CEO Alzheimer’s Australia Vic.

The QDC book is available on the Alzheimer’s Australia website for free download or from Alzheimer’s Australia offices for $7.50.

All details of the seminar series and book can be found at www.alzheimers.org.au.

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