Is it normal for an elderly man to exhibit inappropriate sexual behavior?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Is it normal for elderly men to exhibit inappropriate sexually oriented behavior such as touching females or making suggestive comments?

Expert Answer

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

It is not unusual for an elderly man who is cognitively challenged to exhibit sexual behavior. In that respect, the act is really not 'inappropriate'. It may not be the behavior that is aberrant but instead the choice of place, or time, or person acted upon that requires a change of focus. The need for intimacy does not diminish with age or infirmity. The need for sexual expression may even heighten as the social controls diminish and inhibitions are lessened. It is our ability to control our desires and the presence of inhibition that helps us (the cognitively well-functioning)to choose the appropriate place or the correct time, or the most relevant partner when we have need for sexual expression. This scenario is altered with a change in our intellectual performance. Scolding the individual does little to change the action and generally causes the impaired person to feel shame, humiliation, and disgrace without truly comprhending what he has done that is worthy of chastisement. The scolding may be soon forgotten but the feeling of having done something wrong may remain. Instead try taking the person to another room or space away from the intended mate and offer something else to focus on (a puzzle or scrapbook, or TV show etc). Be sure to understand the difference between what may be deemed inappropriate and what may in fact be quite appropriate if the place is changed.