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Some persons with dementia may display inappropriate sexual behavior at any stage of the disease. Although it is not widespread, the conduct is potentially disruptive to the family, caregivers, and the patients themselves.

A sexually active individual in the past remains active during his early stage of dementia. And so, he continues to enjoy the experience. In other cases, an emotional distress that the person went through in the past may cause him to sexual withdrawal and feelings of inadequacy, or anger and resentment due to sexual problems. Another factor that causes his inappropriate sexual behavior is physical discomfort.

As the dementia advances, the person may forget how to make love anymore.

He may become less considerate of his partner’s needs. Thereby, he may demonstrate aggressive and inappropriate sexual activities. He may also forget that he has just engaged in a sexual activity and demand more relations. And if denied, he might get angry, confused or disoriented. The person may undress or attempt to undress in public, fondle, and masturbate in unsuitable places. He may even expose his private parts and try to have sexual acts with other than his partner. Or, he may direct his sexual desires to his own children, professional caregiver, and other persons due to confusion.


As a care provider, you must understand that the inappropriate sexual behavior in your loved one is due to the damage in the frontal and temporal lobes of his brain. Such damage disrupts his ability to control responses.

Admittedly, there is no single best solution in adjusting to the changing behavior of a loved one with dementia. But there are effective ways of handling inappropriate sexual behavior.

Stay calm and be patient. Do not argue with the person. If the act is done in a public place, lead him to a quiet area. If the inappropriate behavior occurs at home, guide him to the bedroom. But tell him gently and firmly that his actions are inappropriate. Hugging or holding his hands gives the person an assurance that he is being loved and cared for.

Determine the triggers. You can do this by keeping a record when his inappropriate sexual behavior occurs. Take note of his regular use of the toilet. Check for signs of urinary tract infections or constipation. These may be causing him discomfort.

Distract or redirect the person’s attention. Employ distraction and redirection tactics. Ignore his behavior and lead him to more meaningful activities and change the topics. You may invite him to take a walk, eat some snacks together, or look through some photos to reminisce fond memories.

Specially-designed clothing. Buy specially-designed shirts that close at the back to make disrobing difficult for him.

Be also aware that the person may blurt out crude sexual remarks at you or at anybody else around. Thus, your understanding and patience are important in handling your loved one’s inappropriate sexual behavior. You must also educate others that the behavior is due to the damage to the person’s brain in order to avoid misunderstanding and confrontations.

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About the author 

Dr Michael Chua PT, DPT

Dr Michael Chua is a physical therapist practising in Home Health, Skilled Nursing Facilities and Acute Care Hospital. His clinical interest involves pain management, geriatrics and dementia management. He enjoys treating patients and bringing out the best in them using positive treatment approaches, his dynamic work setting in a rural area provides an opportunity to treat a wide range from geriatrics to orthopaedics.

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