The cognitive and behavioral changes after the onset of dementia may affect the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease (PwAD) and their spouse-caregivers. It may impact intimacy, decreasing sexual activity and inverting family roles. In spite of this, love feelings between the couple may remain.

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) affects companionship and the total quality of the marital relationship, as well as the couple’s sexual intimacy. Moreover, the progression of the disease may affect all dimensions of the marital relationship. However, because of the difference on how the disease is perceived by each member of the couple, they would experience different extents of decline on relationship. Despite the growing interest in studies about AD, little attention has been paid to the view of PwAD about the perceived changes in sexual activity and their sexual satisfaction after the onset of dementia.

We decided to compare couples with and without dementia to had better understanding of the difference in sexual activity and sexual satisfaction after the diagnosis. So, in our study, we compared 74 dyads of people with Alzheimer´s disease (PwAD) and their spouse-caregivers, and 21 elderly dyads without dementia as control group.

We found differences between the perception and no perception of change in sexual activity of PwAD, spouse-caregivers and couples without dementia, with 67.6% of PwAD, 71.6% of spouse-caregivers and 61.9% of group control relating recent change in sexual activity.

Also, moderate to severe sexual dissatisfaction was observed in 36.5% of PwAD, 65% of spouse-caregivers and 31% of couples without dementia. It demonstrates that the perception of change with higher sexual dissatisfaction was significant in PwAD and their spouse-caregivers, in comparison to couples of elderly without dementia.

Furthermore, we analyzed the perception of change in sexual activity and the sexual satisfaction of PwAD, because the majority studies focus only in spouse-caregivers’ view. We found that, for PwAD, the sexual satisfaction was related to cognitive impairment. The sexual satisfaction of spouse-caregivers was related to gender and the presence of sexual activity.

The findings of our study suggest that more attention should be paid to couples and changes occurred in their marriage after the diagnosis. For this reason, psychotherapy or psychoeducational groups, may help to develop coping strategies to improve couples’ relationship.

The paper, “Perception of change in sexual activity in Alzheimer’s disease: views of people with dementia and their spouse-caregivers” is published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics and is freely available until Feb 28, 2017.

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