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Navigating Relationships and Sexuality in UK Care Homes: A Valentine’s Day Perspective

Published On:

9 February 2024

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As Valentine’s Day approaches, a day symbolising love and relationships, it’s a perfect time to shed light on a topic that’s often overlooked but incredibly important – relationships and sexuality in care homes, particularly for individuals living with dementia.

Love and Intimacy in the Golden Years

People often don’t think about love and intimacy in our later years, but these feelings don’t fade as we age. In fact, many seniors continue to have rich and fulfilling intimate lives, and Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful occasion to celebrate these relationships.

However, dementia can complicate things, especially when it leads to challenging sexual behaviours. But don’t worry, there are ways to handle these situations with compassion and understanding, ensuring that every resident can enjoy Valentine’s Day in a safe and respectful manner.

  1. Understanding the Behaviour: It’s important to understand that sexual behaviour can be a form of communication, especially for individuals with dementia who may struggle with verbal communication.
  2. Addressing Needs: Sometimes, these behaviours may indicate unmet needs. It could be a need for closeness, comfort, or physical contact.
  3. Setting Boundaries: Clear boundaries should be set to ensure the safety and comfort of all residents.
  4. Education and Training: Caregivers and staff should be trained to handle such situations appropriately.
  5. Legal and Ethical Considerations: Consent, capacity, and the rights of the individuals involved must always be considered.
  6. Support and Resources: Utilise available resources, such as guidelines from reputable organisations, to inform best practices.

Remember, every individual is unique, and their care should be tailored to their specific needs and circumstances. It’s always a good idea to consult with healthcare professionals or dementia care specialists for advice tailored to the specific situation.

The Role of Care Homes

So, where do care homes fit into all this? Well, they play a crucial role in supporting the sexual needs and desires of their residents. It’s all about creating an environment that supports relationships and manages the risks associated with sexual expression.

On Valentine’s Day, care homes can organise special activities or events that celebrate love and relationships, making the day memorable for their residents.

Here’s some practical advice on how to support individuals in care homes to have and maintain appropriate relationships:

  • Understanding and Respect: Understand and respect the individual’s needs and desires. Remember, everyone has the right to have personal relationships.
  • Establish Positive Relationships: Establish positive relationships with families, friends, and carers. This will help create a supportive environment for the individual.
  • Recognize the Importance of Family Relationships: Recognize the importance of family relationships and your role in this.
  • Maintain Appropriate Communication: Maintain appropriate communication with families. This can help ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal.
  • Offer Support: Offer support to people who need care and support to maintain and manage family relationships.
  • Training and Development: Consider training and development for staff to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to support personal relationships.

Activity Ideas

CARD MAKING Residents could express their love for their significant others, friends, or family members by making handmade Valentine’s Day cards.
BAKING Valentine’s Day-themed baking can be a fun and engaging activity for all to enjoy.
POETRY Residents who enjoy writing and are good with words may enjoy trying their hand at some romantic poetry. Other residents may love to hear the poems!
KIND MESSAGES Encourage residents and staff to write kind words about others on heart-shaped pieces of coloured paper.
LOVESONG SING-ALONG Music has a positive impact on the well-being of older people, including those living with Dementia. A good sing-song can improve moods, bring back memories, help to encourage socialisation, and promote mental and physical health! Perhaps some residents can play instruments as well!
DECORATIONS Get creative and support residents to make some simple DIY decorations together for all to admire in the home.
DATE NIGHT Help create private date nights for residents and their significant others.
AFTERNOON TEA Residents and their loved ones could enjoy a good old-fashioned Afternoon Tea together.
CUPID BINGO Enjoy a game of Bingo with heart-shaped dabbers and romantic bingo cards.
PAMPER SESSION Make your residents feel special and relaxed with manicures, pedicures, massages or an Old School clean shave for the men!

Where Can I Find Support? – Professional Guidance and Publications

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have jointly issued guidelines and publications addressing relationships and sexuality in adult social care. The RCN’s guidance on “Older People in Care Homes” focuses on the sexuality, intimate relationships, and sexual expression of older care home residents, providing legal and professional frameworks, and considerations for policies, and emphasising the creation of a positive environment.

Simultaneously, the CQC’s guidance complements this by detailing how care providers should consider relationship and sexuality needs, highlighting the importance of diversity, protecting residents from harm, and linking support for sexual expression to personal well-being. Together, these insights from the RCN and CQC serve as a comprehensive resource for care home staff, promoting a respectful and supportive environment that ensures the well-being of residents by addressing their sexuality and relationship needs. This approach contributes to residents’ overall quality of life and personal fulfilment.

Understanding the legal and ethical dimensions is crucial when dealing with sensitive issues in care homes. The Alzheimer’s Society offers valuable guidance on assessing mental capacity through the Mental Capacity Act, specifying when and how assessments should occur. This legal framework extends to decisions regarding property, financial affairs, health, and social care, anchored in five key principles. The society also emphasises the importance of providing assistance to individuals before conducting capacity tests, fostering a supportive environment.

Moreover, the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report, “Close to Home,” delves into the human rights of older people in home-based care. The report identifies concerns such as neglect, financial abuse, lack of autonomy, and isolation. It underscores the impact of these issues on individuals receiving care and suggests that local authorities play a pivotal role in promoting and safeguarding the human rights of older people in the commissioning of home care.

By combining these insights, care home staff can ensure the well-being of residents by addressing their mental capacity and human rights in a respectful and supportive manner. Creating an environment that considers legal, ethical, and human rights aspects fosters residents’ comfort and expression of needs, ultimately contributing to their overall well-being and quality of life.

What Next?

Navigating relationships and sexuality in UK care homes requires a holistic approach that considers the unique challenges posed by dementia. By combining insights from reputable sources, caregivers and professionals can work together to create an environment that promotes the well-being and dignity of residents. This Valentine’s Day provides a perfect opportunity for services to get a comprehensive understanding of this complex and sensitive topic.

We have created a Free Audit on our website to start the providers and managers thinking about this topic and begin to have a deeper look at this subject within their own care home. Which can be found HERE


Alzheimer’s Society: Challenging sexual behaviour and dementia. Retrieved from

Dementia UK: Changes in sexual behaviour. Retrieved from

Daily Caring: 9 ways to handle Alzheimer’s & sexually inappropriate behaviour. Retrieved from

Snow, T.: How to handle sexually inappropriate behaviours in the care setting. Retrieved from

Royal College of Nursing: Older people in care homes. Retrieved from

Care Quality Commission: New guidance addresses relationships and sexuality among people using adult social care. Retrieved from

Alzheimer’s Society: Assessing mental capacity. Retrieved from

Alzheimer’s Society: Dementia and the Mental Capacity Act. Retrieved from

Equality and Human Rights Commission: Close to home: An inquiry into older people and human rights in home care. Retrieved from Sex in care homes: Satisfying the sexual needs of residents. Retrieved from


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