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Experiencing my sexuality

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Changes in your sexual relationship, loss of interest, discomfort or unease with your partner’s illness or condition?

Your role as a caregiver could have an impact on the way you experience your sexuality and on the emotional relationship you have with your partner.

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Sexuality and caregiving

Your role as a caregiver brings many changes to your life. It’s not often talked about, but it can also affect your sexuality and the emotional relationship you have with your partner, whether your partner is the person you are helping or not.

You may be:

  • A caregiver in a partnership with a person who is ill. The impact of the illness on the couple’s daily activities, including sexual activities, is significant. Despite your commitment and love,you feel that your intimate life is changing;
  • A caregiver of a child with special needs. Your role takes up a lot of time and space. You don’t have much time to think about yourself, you feel a loss of interest and a gradual decline in sexual activity;
  • A caregiver in a relationship with a person with cognitive loss. Discomfort, uneasiness and communication challenges set in over time and the dynamics of the relationship are disrupted;
  • A caregiver of a relative or friend. You are juggling a tight schedule and your days are full. It is not easy to find time for yourself and for your couple.

Experiencing your sexuality as time passes

Sexuality changes over time and through relationships. Being a caregiver can accentuate these changes. So why pay attention to your sexuality?

  • Sexual health is an integral part of health, well-being and quality of life;
  • Sexuality is alive, it evolves over time and is unique to each person. For example, “alive” can mean desire, intimacy, loving feelings, orgasm or pleasure, if that is what you are comfortable with;
  • When, as a caregiver, it is suggested that you take care of yourself or think about the risks of burnout, this includes your sexuality. Documented benefits of a vibrant and fulfilling sexuality include reduced stress, improved sleep, and increased relationship satisfaction and balance.

That being said, your ability to experience your sexuality depends on several factors:

  • Your circumstances as a caregiver;
  • Your personal situation;
  • Your socio-economic, emotional, biological, psychological and financial context;
  • The situation and condition of the person you are caring for.

Mental workload, fatigue, anxiety, emotions, relationship changes, all of these factors can lead to a lack of interest in sexual activity. Sexuality can take many forms; it’s up to you to find what works best for you and your partner.

Questions and possible solutions

You talk about “fulfilled sexuality,” but how do you achieve this?

It is unique to each person, but here are a few suggestions: explore your sexuality and sensuality in a different way, use creativity to learn what works for you as a couple, discuss the subject with your partner, and learn more about sexuality. Researcher Carmen Lemelin offers concrete and realistic advice for those she calls “caregiver-lovers.” If you still feel uncomfortable, talk to a healthcare professional.

You talk about “sexual fulfillment,” but the person I help has cognitive impairments…

For a caregiver, combining the cognitive impairment of their partner with maintaining sexual activity can be a delicate issue. This helpful tip offers a few guidelines to help you explore this issue.

I have an appointment with a sexologist, but I’m not sure how to broach the subject…

You canuse these questions as a guide. You can also share your experience with a support group, access resources or find a listening ear with the Caregiver Support Helpline counselors before or after your medical appointment.

I am 67 years old and in a relationship with the person I am caring for. I still have a lot of sexual desire for her, but it is not reciprocated. What can I do?

Studies focusing on the sexuality of people aged 60 and over show that many continue to have an interest in sex and say they are sexually active. They also mention that the emotional aspect of their sexuality is playing an increasingly important role. Patrick Doucet’s recent book can give you some insight and films such as Henry by Yann England or Au-delà des mots: paroles de proches aidants (Beyond Words: Caregiver Stories) can inspire you: they talk about love, the passage of time, humour, life as it is and sexuality as it can be or as we would like it to be. On the radio, there’s no age limit for intimacy; that’s it!

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Need to talk?

Contact our Caregiver Support Helpline for counselling, information et referrals.

Every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Free of charge.

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