What we know
There is little published literature of intimacy and sexuality for older people in a palliative care context outside of dementia. Older people are commonly viewed as asexual, yet intimacy, sexuality, and sexual expression are basic human needs and continue to be important throughout life and can provide physical and psychological benefits. Older people and healthcare professionals often find sexuality and sexual activity a difficult topic to broach. Health care professionals can encourage discussion by appearing interested, understanding, concerned and empathetic and clearly accepting of all sexual orientations. Safe, respectful and inclusive care of older people should respect diversity and include sensitive assessment of and response to intimacy and sexuality needs. Dementia can bring changes in sexual expression (lack of inhibition, inappropriate or aggressive behaviours) and can pose challenges to staff and other residents. The question of consent and consensual assent (acceptance or approval) is important to consider before responding.