Intimacy and sexuality

The need for closeness is a very important and natural part of our lives, including the lives of people with dementia.

Intimacy is the giving and receiving of love and affection. It involves caring touching, empathic understanding, comfort in times of need, and a feeling of safety in relationships.

Sexuality is the feeling of sexual desire, which is expressed through sexual activity. Like intimacy, sexuality is a natural expression of a human need.

How dementia affects intimacy and sexuality

People with dementia will vary in how they give and receive affection, and how dementia affects their ability to do that. Because of the condition, some people with dementia may become demanding and insensitive to others’ needs. They may also want more or less affection themselves.

How they express their sexuality might also change. Some people with dementia may want to stay sexually active while others might lose all interest. Because of the dementia, others might do sexually inappropriate things.

Ways to maintain intimacy:

  • Include different forms of touch in everyday routines so the person with dementia gets some physical contact.
  • Massage, holding hands and hugging are ways to continue providing loving touches.


Booklet: Supporting a person with dementia
A guide for family/whānau and friends

This booklet gives you information and tips on helping a person with dementia with their personal care, such as washing and dressing, nutrition, sleeping and travelling, as well as communication and ideas for meaningful activities and ways you can look after yourself – which is very important, too. 

Click here to download the booklet (PDF).