Nursing Home Sex Stifled by Safety Fears

Dementia and Sexuality: A Touchy Subject

A similar situation played out for former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose husband had romantic relationships with fellow residents at an assisted care facility in Arizona before he died of Alzheimer's in 2009.

"It was nice for him to have someone there who was sometimes holding his hand and to keep him company," O'Connor told the New York Times. "And I'm totally glad."

Geri Hall, a clinical nurse specialist at the Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Phoenix, applauded O'Connor's "enlightened" response.

"It's hard – very hard – particularly if it was a long, enduring marriage," she said. "But we can't medicalize this. These are very much human decisions."

The incidence of Alzheimer's disease is projected to double by 2050 as more Americans age into their high-risk decades. Nearly half of people over age 85 will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzhiemer's Association. But demented or not, the baby boomers are not going to give up their right to a healthy sex life, Hall said.

"We're not going to put up with it," said Hall, a baby boomer herself. "We need to be open about the fact sex is something that happens wherever people live, and we can't just take away people's rights."

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