Educating staff about how to handle intimacy among residents of long term care facilities can raise quality assurance levels.
From the ascending scale of intimate acts (beginning at handholding and ending with intercourse) to the cognitive impairments that can muddle sexual consent, a black and white policy could not begin to accommodate every imaginable scenario of intimacy among residents of long term care facilities.
“It’s much better, in my opinion, that you not have a policy that tries to fit or address every situation. Instead I think that if a procedure can be put in place that would give some guidelines for how the staff should handle [physical intimacy among residents], I’m all for that,” says Craig Fukushima, MBA, NHA, former nursing home administrator and a partner in The Fox Group, LLC.
He also points out that choosing an overreaching policy to dictate such unpredictable events could potentially create more problems for the facility. “If you write a specific policy and the health department comes in on a survey or complaint, they’re going to hold you to that policy.”
Instead, educating staff about how to handle intimacy among residents appropriately can increase facilities’ quality assurance and customer satisfaction when this knowledge is applied correctly.
If staff notice that residents have started to become intimate with each other or with a visiting significant other, Fukushima suggests addressing the situation by following these three steps:
Speak with the resident(s) to determine their level of cognitive impairment and the possible effects intimacy has had on him or her. Evaluate: Is the resident happy? Is the resident acting violated and confused?
Consult the resident’s physician for professional information regarding his or her cognitive and physical state. Is it safe for the resident to participate in sex and is he or she able to make that decision?
Discuss the situation with family members, particularly the member assigned as the resident’s power of attorney.
Some family members may feel very uncomfortable (if the resident is a parent) or even devastated (if the resident is a spouse who has become intimate with another resident). It’s important for staff to approach the subject with empathy and understanding, while always keeping in mind what’s best for the resident (which may not necessarily be what’s best for the “well” spouse).
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