Nurses' knowledge and attitudes toward aged sexuality in Flemish nursing homes

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Abstract

Background:

Admission to a nursing home does not necessarily diminish an older person's desire for sexual expression and fulfillment. Given that nursing staff directly and indirectly influence the range of acceptable sexual expressions of nursing home residents, their knowledge and attitudes toward aged sexuality can have far-reaching effects on both the quality of care they provide to residents and the self-image and well-being of these residents.

Research objectives:

To investigate nursing staff's knowledge and attitudes toward aged sexuality, to determine whether certain sociodemographic factors of the nursing staff relate to their knowledge and attitudes toward later-life sexuality, and to examine the relationship between knowledge and attitudes.

Research design:

Descriptive cross-sectional survey study.

Research participants and research context:

The administered questionnaire collected sociodemographic data and data from an adapted, Dutch version of the Aging Sexual Knowledge and Attitudes Scale. Data were collected from November 2011 through April 2012. A total of 43 geographically dispersed nursing homes in Flanders, Belgium, participated. Out of a potential research sample of 2228 nursing staff respondents, 1166 participated.

Ethical considerations:

The study protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Medicine of the KU Leuven.

Findings:

Nursing staff appeared to be moderately knowledgeable about aged sexuality and displayed a rather positive attitude toward sexuality in older people. Significant relationships between various variables were found both at univariable and multivariable levels. Knowledge and attitudes proved to be positively related, indicating that a higher level of knowledge of aged sexuality is associated with a more positive attitude toward sexuality in later life.

Discussion:

Research findings are discussed within a broader international context.

Conclusion:

There is room for improvement for both nursing staff's knowledge and attitudes toward aged sexuality. This might be aided by appropriate educational interventions. Our results identified different target groups of nursing home staff for these interventions.

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