Are Older Patients Comfortable Discussing Sexual Health With Nurses?

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Background:Sexual health is an important component of quality of life, yet practitioners do not routinely query older adults about their sexual health concerns.Purpose:The aims of this study were to ascertain whether older adults (a) have unanswered questions about their sexual health; (b) are asked about their sexual health, disease, and medications that could affect their sexual health and theirknowledge of STDs and HIV/AIDS; (c) would welcome acare provider initiating the conversation about their sexual health; (d) would be comfortable with discussing their sexualhealth with a nurse; and (e) identify some barriers to discussing sexual health for the older adult.Method:This was a quantitative cross-sectional study that used a 24-item investigator-developed survey which was distributed to residents of retirement communities and participants in fitness classes in the Puget Sound, Washington, region.Results:A total of 101 surveys were completed. The participants’ average age was 81 years (range = 62–96 years); 70.3% were women (n = 71) and 25.7% were men (n = 26). When asked what sexual health meant, participants said it encompassed physical pleasure with one’s partner or oneself and psychological and physiological health; 47.1% (n = 41) want to be asked about their sexual health at their healthcarevisit, and 86% (n = 78) reported that they were comfortable discussing sexual health and were not embarrassed or offended. Male respondents preferred discussing with a physician rather than a nurse (52.2%, p = .01, n = 12), whereas female respondents indicated that they were willingto talk with either a physician or a nurse (56.9%, p = .01, n = 37).Implications:The results of this study have the potential to inform treatment approaches, improve outcomes, and enhance communication with older adults regarding issues of sexual health that impact quality of life.

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