Sexual expression in aged care

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on June 14, 2019

A PERTH university student is looking to the Great Southern to conduct research on how residential aged care workers perceive and experience sexual behaviour from aged care facility residents.

Marie Smith, who is completing an Honours degree in Psychology at Edith Cowan University, worked in aged care when she first left high school and described the experience as “eye opening”.

She hopes her research project will give carers a voice as she believes no other scholarly literature does.

“After working in aged care and reading the literature, I realised how little focus there was on this,” Ms Smith said, regarding sexual expression in aged care.

“I was a bit shocked because studies look at aged care managers and nurses, but not at carers, who make up 70 per cent of the aged care workforce.”

For her project, Ms Smith defines sexual expression and behaviour as “any act that communicates sexual need or desire, such as suggestive comments and gestures, flirting, hugging, kissing, groping, viewing sexual material and solo or partnered sexual activities”.

“This can be sexual expression between a resident and a carer, between resident and resident, or a resident with themselves,” she further explained.

“And it’s not just physical – it might be verbal, or an elderly lady wanting to read 50 Shades of Grey, or a couple getting embarrassed even though they are married.”

Ms Smith is focusing on the Great Southern due to the high population of retirees and rural retirees, as she believes regional residents are often overlooked in scholarly research.

She feels it is a “no brainer” to ask carers in the Great Southern about their encounters with sexual expression.

“It’s tricky because there aren’t a lot of guidelines around how to deal with sexual expression,” Ms Smith said.

“So, I really want to ask questions and see how people can be helped in a constructive way.”

Only carers employed in the aged care sector are eligible to participate in Ms Smith’s study.

All interviews will be confidential, and a $20 Coles Myer voucher will be granted as thanks for participation.

Pseudonyms will be used when the interviews are included in Ms Smith’s final paper, which she hopes to finish in October and publish next year.

Those interested can contact Ms Smith on 0487 982 722.