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Aged care residents still need intimacy

Aged care residents still need TLC: expert
Photo: Aged care residents still need TLC: expert
Aged care residents and their visitors need privacy, says the loving wife of a man living with dementia.

Anne Fairhall and her husband of 50 years have always been an affectionate and loving couple.

But when his dementia meant he had to move into residential care four years ago, she had to "coach" staff about their need for intimacy and privacy.

"We would hold hands if sitting on the couch or I would sit on his bed and have my arm around his body," she told AAP before her appearance at the Let's Talk About Sex: Relationships and Intimacy as We Age conference in Melbourne.

"The staff at first would say `oh, I'm sorry' as if they were embarrassed to see us close.

For more articles on Dementia, click here. 
"They actually found us much more hands on physically, openly affectionate, and openly providing a lot more touch than most other families."

But she says she's now managed to "coach" them about the importance of touch for many residents and about always knocking before entering his room when she's visiting her 76-year-old husband.

She's also noticed a bit of a domino effect, with other visitors being "more touching" with their loved ones, be it a parent or a partner.

Her conference talk is called "Do you still love me?".

The 71-year-old former nurse and businesswoman says many people in aged care think they are no longer loved.

But they'll respond to loved ones' affection, holding hands, stroking them on the hand or shoulder, or giving loving looks, although there are some who did not like to be touched.

It's particularly important for those with dementia, many of whom can't communicate - like her husband who once spoke seven languages.

"For us, it calms him - he still can get very confused and agitated these days.

"I have eye contact, hold his hand, speak to him in a gentle tone of voice and, in particular, give him some TLC."

And there's still some laughs.

"I was trimming his moustache and was in the bathroom, sitting on one of his knees to try and get the eye contact," she said.

"A nurse didn't knock and came in and said she was really sorry.

"I think she thought we were really having it on, we are past that, but we are not past the intimacy stage."

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