Occupational therapists' perspectives on addressing sexual concerns of older adults in the context of rehabilitation

Discipline of Occupational Therapy, School of Health Sciences, National University of Ireland , Galway , Ireland.
Disability and Rehabilitation (Impact Factor: 1.99). 06/2013; DOI: 10.3109/09638288.2013.805823


To explore occupational therapists’ perspectives on addressing sexuality in the context of rehabilitation services for older people. Method: A qualitative exploratory design was used. Data were collected using a series of focus groups (n = 5) among occupational therapists (n = 22) working with older people. Data were analysed using content analysis. Results: Occupational therapists in this study rarely addressed sexuality in the context of rehabilitation services for older people. Three major categories emerged in relation to barriers which influence therapists’ practice in this area: (i) the influence of culture on decisions regarding whether or not to address sexuality, (ii) perceived competence and confidence to address sexuality and (iii) the impact of resources regarding the inclusion or exclusion of sexuality from rehabilitation. Conclusions: Although sexuality is increasingly considered an important and relevant aspect of successful ageing the extent to which healthcare professionals are prepared to address sexual concerns identified by older people is less clear. If new expectations of healthy ageing are to be met, healthcare professionals must acknowledge the importance of sexuality and be prepared to be involved in sexual health management.Implications for Rehabilitation
Healthcare professionals continue to be reluctant to respond to older peoples’ concerns relating to sexuality.

Occupational therapists in Ireland identified socio-cultural norms relating to sexuality, perceived professional competence and confidence and prioritization of resources as key barriers.
Education is needed to improve therapists’ perceived competence and confidence in addressing sexuality with older adults.
Policy change is required to consider the underlying assumptions about sexuality, ageing and disability.

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