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Addressing sexuality and intimacy in people living with Parkinson's during palliative care and at the end of life

27 June 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 12


Sexuality and intimacy are poorly researched in both people living with Parkinson's and in older people. Triggers for discussion usually centre on sexual dysfunction and hypersexuality in relation to Parkinson's. However, there are many more factors that impact on physical and emotional connectedness. Despite highlighting this unmet need there are limited tools or comprehensive assessments available to help improve quality of life. Further research is required within this field, with emphasis on health professionals' education and on highlighting to patients that they have permission for this topic to be discussed and actioned.

This article focuses on a challenging care issue relevant to clinical practice in idiopathic Parkinson's, and anyone living with a life-limiting illness or approaching the end of life. The article reviews the current literature, and critiques and evaluates the evidence, addressing implications for clinical practice.

In the past, the World Health Organization's (WHO) definitions of palliative care specifically concentrated on the care of cancer patients. However, it has become abundantly clear that there is a significant unmet need in people with many other long-term conditions (Fitzsimons et al, 2007; Wilson and Seymour, 2007). The present WHO definition encompasses any individuals with a life-limiting illness and includes provision for all those in need. It suggests actions to instigate and it is therefore to be welcomed:

‘Prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.’

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