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New initiative to educate staff on sexuality and dementia

A study will deliver education to residential aged care staff to help them respond to and support the sexuality and sexual expression of people living with dementia.

The study, which also aims to challenge stereotypes and improve knowledge and practice, is being led by Dr Cindy Jones of Griffith University’s Health Institute, who has conducted extensive research into the area of sexuality and sexual expression with dementia.

In 2013, she developed, in collaboration with the Dementia Training Studies Centres, a free educational resource to increase awareness of intimacy, sexualities and sexual behaviours specific to people with dementia and to give a practical guide health professionals on how to support them.

Building on the information in the resource, in the new study Dr Jones will trial live educational webinars with residential aged care staff, with the aim to increase knowledge, improve attitudes and change practice of care staff towards sexual expression of people living with dementia.

Dr Cindy Jones

Dr Cindy Jones

There will be a strong focus on knowledge translation, with participants assessed before and after the program on their knowledge and attitudes, and followed up at three months to see how they have adapted their practice.

Dr Jones said education and training around sexual expression was not standard across the sector. As a result, staff could often feel challenged by, embarrassed or unsure of how to react or support sexual needs and expression of people with dementia, and could also hold stereotypes about older peoples’ sexuality.

“There’s a perception or stereotypical view that older people don’t need sex, can’t have sex, are not interested in sex or have sexual expression needs when they get older. That is not true… it is part of our life, it doesn’t matter what age you are,” said Dr Jones.

Recent research has also shown that education on sexuality and sexual expression varied widely across the aged care sector, and that even when delivered, was not always comprehensive.

The webinars will focus on increasing general understanding of intimacy, sexual behaviour and sexuality, including that of both heterosexual and LGBTI people. It will also work with staff to assist to identify expressions of sexuality by people with dementia, and appropriate strategies or approaches in response.

For example, Dr Jones said sometimes people living with dementia could express or display certain sexual behaviours that care staff could perceive as concerning or problematic, such as public masturbation. However, she said that this behaviour could often actually be a symptom of unmet need, and staff needed to have skills and strategies to support that person to meet that need in a more appropriate context.

The webinars will also examine ethical considerations, such as capacity, consent, and the person with dementia’s right to self-determination and privacy. Staff will also be given strategies and frameworks to implement knowledge in practice, including the development of policy, guidelines and resources that can be shared with other staff, family and the person with dementia.

In the past, Dr Jones and her team have conducted both workshops and online training also based on the original resource, but it is hoped that the webinars will be more cost effective and easier for staff to attend than face-to-face workshops, while also being more engaging and interactive than the previous online program, which while effective, relied on self-directed learning.

To participate

Dr Jones and her team are seeking staff who are directly involved in care provision for older people with or without dementia to participate. Participants will attend 1.5 hour webinars over six weeks, and be automatically entered into a prize draw for one of ten $200 Coles Myer vouchers.

For further information and a consent form, contact either:

Dr Cindy Jones, Phone: 07 3735 8440 or Email:
Professor Wendy Moyle, Phone: 07 3735 5526 or Email:

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2 Responses to New initiative to educate staff on sexuality and dementia

  1. Heila Brooks June 6, 2016 at 9:45 am #

    Can you give an idea of the schedule for webinars.
    6 x 1.5hrs?? particular time/day.
    Certainly interested in participating.
    Many thanks

  2. Lydianne Francis June 10, 2016 at 5:35 pm #

    I would be interested in some of my staff participating.

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