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Griffith trials live webinars to improve understanding of sexuality for people with dementia

Photo: Griffith University
Griffith University has trialled a new webinar program, designed to increase awareness and understanding of the sexual desires of people with dementia, among aged care workers and other health professionals.

The study was developed by Dr Cindy Jones from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute, and involved the evaluation of six, weekly interactive live webinars. The webinars looked at the expression of sexuality by people with dementia living in residential aged care facilities.

“Recent national and international research highlights the need for education and training of health professionals so that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to better respond to the sexual needs and expression of sexuality by older people, particularly those with dementia,” said Dr Jones.

Issues relating to sexuality for people with dementia, particularly those living in aged care facilities, have typically been placed in the ‘too hard basket’, according to Dr Jones, who said the subject is not covered at all by Dementia Training Australia.
  
“Sexual feelings, desires and needs of people with dementia and their partners can be affected by the disease and can be very difficult to discuss with staff.

“Furthermore, expression of sexuality by older people in residential aged care facilities, particularly those with dementia, can be challenging and confronting for care staff.”

Dr Jones said the webinars were positively received, with practice change also reported from newly gained knowledge and skills.

“Education consumers demand contemporary technology options. Interactive live webinars are increasingly being used in continuing education initiatives for time-poor health professionals.

“This study demonstrates the acceptability and effectiveness of interactive live webinars in workforce education for a topic considered ethically challenging for some dementia care philosophies.

“It is recommended that webinar formats be considered in the suite of education delivery options that may offer equity of access for rural and remote areas of Australia.”

Dr Jones believes providing education to care staff to improve their knowledge and attitudes on sexuality in relation to older people, particularly those with dementia, is crucial.

Policy and guidelines should also be developed to assist care staff in responding to expression of sexuality by older people in care environment, she said. .

“This work can lead to the potential facilitation of a care environment that is supportive of the verbalisation and expression of sexual preference, need and desire by people with dementia via improvements in staff understanding and response towards the expression of sexuality by people with dementia.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.