Caring for the Opposite Sex: Dealing with Intimacy Challenges

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by Ray Burow |

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Alzheimer’s Association resources for caregivers

In the United States, 2.1 million men age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease. With Father’s Day approaching, we recognize that these numbers represent many dads, though fewer men than women have the disease.

Caregiving isn’t gender-specific.

Among Americans age 71 and older, 16 percent of women and 11 percent of men have Alzheimer’s or other dementias. However, as women outlive men on average, it follows that many daughters, wives, and mothers provide care for their ailing fathers, sons, and husbands.

And, of course, with almost 6 million people living with the disease in the U.S., many men are also providing care to loved ones.

Caring for the opposite sex

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease comes with many challenges. Eventually, your loved one will need help with every task, and the intimate details won’t be spared. The personal nature of caregiving presents an additional difficulty when taking care of a loved one of the opposite sex.

Daughters caring for dads and sons caring for moms face issues of preserving dignity while performing necessary, but intimate tasks. How can they do both?

Changing paper underwear, helping a parent to get ready for bed, and tending to bathroom matters are some of the tasks that push caregivers out of their comfort zone. The choice for caregivers is simple: We’d rather overcome timidity in favor of providing care for Dad or Mom. Sons employ methods that limit their moms’ embarrassment, and daughters do the same for their fathers.

The intimacy of caregiving

Dignity is at the core of caregiving, particularly when looking after a parent or child of the opposite sex. While it may be more appropriate for men to care for men, and women for women, nothing about Alzheimer’s disease is convenient. The following methods may help you to avoid embarrassing your loved one or compromising your relationship:

  • Before performing an intimate task, ask for permission. Carefully explain to your loved one, step-by-step, what you are doing, and why.
  • Avoid awkwardness and conduct intimate procedures by thinking like a healthcare provider and not as a son or daughter. Speak to your parent as a professional would. Avoid crude comments or teasing. Complete the task as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Keep in mind that help is available. Resources include local chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association. Perhaps you can hire a certified nursing assistant to help with showers or bathing.
  • Support groups provide a space to share with other caregivers who can provide clarity about your situation.


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s Disease.


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