Romance and Intimacy in Parkinson’s Disease

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):

  • Rigidity
  • Tremor
  • Motor Fluctuations
  • Mood Changes
  • Pain
  • Mobility Limitations
  • Fatigue
  • Hypersexuality related to medication
  • And many more…

Treatment

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.

Intimacy Questionnaire

PD Intimacy Questionnaire

Access this quick, five question take home quiz from Dr. Sheila Silver designed to facilitate open communication about intimacy with your partner.

hearts

Webinars and Blogs

World Parkinson’s Congress

Personal Intimacy and Sexuality in Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson Secrets Blog

Tips for Identifying and Improving Sexual Dysfunction in Parkinson’s Disease

Davis Phinney

Sexuality and Intimacy for People with Parkinson’s and Their Care Partners

Parkinson’s Foundation

Relationships, Romance and Young Onset Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s UK

Relationship, Sex and Parkinson’s Booklet

UF Health and Local Resources

FiXel Institute Patients and Caregivers

C.A.R.E.S. Program

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.

CARES program

FiXel Institute Patients and Caregivers

Fixel Institute Support Groups

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.

support groups

Elder Options

Coping with Caregiving Virtual Training Program

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.

caregive

References

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Silver, S. (September 2015). Ten Steps to Physical and Emotional Intimacy [PPT]. Presented at the 4th World Parkinson Congress in Portland, Oregon.
  4. 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
  5. Pixabay (n.d.). Senior couple happy bed [Picture]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/photos/senior-couple-bed-happy-4723737/
  6. Pxhere (n.d.) Senior couple dancing [Picture]. Retrieved from https://pxhere.com/en/photo/563226

About the Author

 Avatar

Heather Simpson, OTR/L

Heather Simpson graduated with a B.S. in Exercise and Sport Science with a minor in Early Education from the University of Florida in 2007. Following…

Read all articles by Heather Simpson, OTR/L