Creating Space for Relationships

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Sexuality is a key component of personality and behavior, encompassing basic human needs for touch, intimacy, love, affection, and sexual behavior. The design of long-term care facilities makes it almost impossible for a resident to be sexually intimate, to share romantic moments, or to have a meal in a private setting. This case study describes the rationale and process used to establish a private guestroom called the Family Room at Patriots Place, the specialized dementia unit in the Veterans Affairs (VA) Maine Healthcare System Community Living Center (CLC). As part of an overall commitment to culture change at VA Maine, the Family Room addresses needs for privacy and sexual intimacy as expressed by residents and their partners. Supporting the dignity and independence of individuals with dementia provided the basis for the policies established to support this project. Despite potential challenges, (e.g., staff acceptance, nursing coverage, facility space needs) residents, partners, and health care staff at VA Maine have expressed positive support for the Family Room. This resource is a way to accommodate the ongoing needs for privacy, intimacy, relational continuity, and sexual expression of long-term care residents with dementia and to support their autonomy and dignity.

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