When Kansas State University sent researchers into nursing homes to find out how the topic of sex was being addressed, they initially found silence.
“Nobody was talking about it; it was a really hush-hush subject,” said Gayle Doll, director of the university’s Center on Aging. “I guess it’s hard enough for people to think about their parents having sex, let alone their grandparents.”
In response, the researchers have produced seminars and training aids to encourage nursing home caregivers to discuss and accommodate sexual desires.
The effort brings Kansas into a national discussion that advocates say will only grow as baby boomers age and take their beliefs about sexual freedom and civil rights into the nation’s nursing homes.
By MARGARET STAFFORD, Associated Press Writer
One of the first Kansas seminars was held at Schowalter Villa in Hesston, where many staff first reacted with, “We’re going to talk about WHAT?” said Lillian Claassen, vice president of health services at the villa.
Claassen said residents’ sexuality had always been a difficult subject for nursing homes and the Kansas State training affirmed her earlier efforts to address the topic.
“It wasn’t like we hadn’t cared for these needs in the past, but it was liberating to some folks to have an open discussion with university researchers,” Claassen said. “It empowered people to think about how they could help folks.”
Doll said the training focuses on explaining what sexuality means for older adults, identifying barriers to fulfilling the sexual needs, finding strategies to help residents and how to discern appropriate from inappropriate sexual behaviors.
Solutions can be as simple as providing “do not disturb” signs or making sure staffers don’t barge into residents’ rooms without knocking. Claassen said her nursing home provides a discreet room for residents and has staff work through possible scenarios they may encounter.