February is known as the month of love. With the popular holiday, Valentine’s day, this month often encourages people to express their love for their loved ones and reminds romantic partners to re-focus on their relationships.
However, research shows that a diagnosis of a neurodegenerative condition, such as Parkinson’s disease (PD), has been shown to have a negative impact on couples’ intimate relationships (4). Relationship role changes and the symptoms of PD impact the ability to reconnect sexually and intimately, making the ability to outwardly express love during holidays such as Valentine’s Day more challenging (4). Although these symptoms are often noticed, they can often be ignored, leading to difficulties in partner relationships and deterioration in the quality of life (4).
Both motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) can contribute to difficulties with sexual functioning and role changes, including (1):
- Motor Fluctuations
- Mood Changes
- Mobility Limitations
- Hypersexuality related to medication
- And many more…
To improve sexual intimacy and romance in relationships with PD, research has shown that the number one, most crucial factor to improving sexual intimacy is increasing sexual communication (1). Having an open dialogue with your partner but also your healthcare providers such as your physician, your occupational/physical therapist, and your counselor are critical to maintaining sexual intimacy. Although speaking to a healthcare provider about these concerns might be uncomfortable or feel unusual (2), avoiding this discussion can lead to more difficulties in this area and potentially lead you to miss out on some medical opportunities to treat the symptoms.
Additionally, researchers and specialists emphasize the importance of thinking outside of the box when it comes to intimacy with PD (3). Dr. SheilaSilver, a clinical sexologist, recommends thinking of “physical intimacy as a buffet” when it comes to PD(3). Since the symptoms of PD make romance challenging, it is necessary to get creative. Consider working with a therapist to explore ways to stay connected, both emotionally and physically, throughout the PD diagnosis.
Access this quick, five question take home quiz from Dr. Sheila Silver designed to facilitate open communication about intimacy with your partner.
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UF Health and Local Resources
C.A.R.E.S (Caregivers Accessing Resources for Emotional Support) is free, 1-on-1 counseling to caregivers of patients in the Fixel Institute who are currently experiencing emotional and mental strain while caring for a loved one. Can be provided by Zoom online.To schedule this FREE service, call our office at 352-733-2410 or email Jana Unislawksi.
Join the Fixel Institute for their monthly caregiver meeting that occurs on the first Friday of every month and People with Parkinson’s/caregiver group on the third Friday of every month. Currently, sessions are being held virtually.
The Coping with Caregiving Virtual Training Program is a LIVE online training program designed to improve the lives of caregivers and care receivers. This FREE online training program is divided into two classes. Take one or both depending on your current caregiver needs. Each class meets once a week for an hour and a half for 4 weeks.
- Bronner, G., & Korczyn, A. D. (2017). The Role of Sex Therapy in the Management of Patients with Parkinson’s Disease. Movement disorders clinical practice, 5(1), 6–13. https://doi.org/10.1002/mdc3.12561
- de Rooy, F., Buhmann, C., Schönwald, B., Martinez-Martin, P., Rodriguez-Blazquez, C., Putter, H., Elzevier, H. W., & van der Plas, A. A. (2019). Discussing sexuality with Parkinson’s disease patients: a multinational survey among neurologists. Journal of neural transmission (Vienna, Austria : 1996), 126(10), 1273–1280. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00702-019-02053-5
- Silver, S. (September 2015). Ten Steps to Physical and Emotional Intimacy [PPT]. Presented at the 4th World Parkinson Congress in Portland, Oregon.
- Vatter, S., McDonald, K. R., Stanmore, E., Clare, L., McCormick, S. A., & Leroi, I. (2018). A qualitative study of female caregiving spouses’ experiences of intimate relationships as cognition declines in Parkinson’s disease. Age and ageing, 47(4), 604–610. https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afy049
- Pixabay (n.d.). Senior couple happy bed [Picture]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/photos/senior-couple-bed-happy-4723737/
- Pxhere (n.d.) Senior couple dancing [Picture]. Retrieved from https://pxhere.com/en/photo/563226