Maintaining an Intimate Relationship When Your Spouse Moves to Assisted Living

When we think of a person moving to assisted living, we oftentimes focus on a single person living alone. That individual no longer is able to take care of his or her self without at least some assistance. The reality is that not all people who do move to assisted living are single and living by themselves. Some individuals who transition to assisted living are married people. Understanding that possibility, you may be in such a position yourself. There are ways in which a married couple can maintain an intimate relationship when a spouse moves into an assisted living community. 

Make Your Visits Meaningful

A step to take as a couple with a spouse in assisted living is to make visits meaningful. One way in which you can “add value” to visits is by planning ahead for specific activities you both enjoy on the next visit. Taking this approach tends to make each visit more meaningful than if you just decide to do something on the proverbial fly. While there is nothing wrong with deciding what to do on a visit at the time of a get-together, it is recommended that this not be the standard course that you and your spouse take in this regard. 

Spend Time Away From Assisted Living

Another key to maintaining an intimate relationship when your spouse is in assisted living is to spend time away from the facility or community. For example, if you have maintained the marital home, a good idea is to spend time in that residence. As will be discussed in a moment, depending on the circumstances of at the assisted living community, sexually intimate moments might best be shared at the home and not at your spouse’s quarters in the community.

Visits between spouses, when one lives in assisted living, are enhanced when there are other types of activities away from the community or facility as well. Couples in this type of living arrangement oftentimes benefit from having “dates” to activities and events in the community. Just because a couple is in their Golden Year and merely because one spouse is resident in assistance living does not mean that new memories cannot be made.

Reminisce From Time to Time

An intimate relationship can be maintained and even enhanced between spouses (including when one spouse resides in assisted living) through shared experiences and reminiscing about these past events and happenings. A close relationship with a spouse cannot be maintained only by reliving past experiences. However, when pursued in a proper amount, reminiscing about the past truly is capable of reminding a couple why they are together and in love even after what very well may be a good many years.

Sex in Assisted Living

No conversation about maintaining an intimate relationship when your spouse moves to this type of long-term care community would be completed without a discussion of sex in assisted living. The most fundamental point to be made about sex in assisted living is this:

If an adult resident of an assisted living community has the mental capacity to consent to sex, that person cannot be denied his or her right to engage in sexual intimacies. While this is the fundamental statement of the ability of an assisted living resident to have sex, in a number of ways it is far easier to state than implement. 

The legal rights of a resident of an assisted living community or other type of long-term care facility has been succinctly enumerated by AgingWell:

Legally, residents of long-term care facilities are entitled to express themselves sexually as long as sexual expression is not a public display, is consensual between residents, and does not harm the resident or others. However, barriers remain, and for many residents, appropriate sexual expression may be prevented by lack of privacy, physical and mental health status, lack of institutional policies and procedures, and staff or family intervention.

With these points in mind, sex in an assisted living facility between spouses to a marriage is perhaps the easiest scenario to address. Assuming mental capacity of both spouses, the resident of an assisted living facility can engage in sexual relations with his married partner. If the resident has a private apartment or private room, the couple has a place to be intimate.

Staff of an assisted living facility cannot just barge into a resident’s private quarters unannounced and without permission, as a general rule. The one exception would be if there is a reason to believe that some type of emergency situation might exist that demands immediate entry into a resident’s room or apartment.

The situation regarding sex between married partners when one is in assisted living gets more complicated if the resident has a semi-private room and a roommate. The roommate has certain rights that he or she cannot be disposed of because a person wants to have sex with his or her wife. 

Sometimes practical considerations need to come into play to simplify what otherwise might be a rather complicated issue. In the case of a married assisted living resident with a roommate, the practical solution would be sharing marital intimacies at the couple’s residence. As discussed previously, spending time away from the assisted living community as a couple is a recommended way of maintaining a meaningful relationship when one spouse lives in assisted living. 

Due Diligence and Screening an Assisted Living Community Before Moving In

Before making a decision regarding one spouse moving into an assisted living community, due diligence necessitates a close and comprehensive screening of a facility’s rules in regard to married couples. This includes coming to a clear and complete understanding of the manner in which a particular assisted living community addresses the matter of sexual intimacy between married people when one spouse resides in a facility. 

According to AgingWell:

In response to the often-sensitive issue of geriatric sexual expression, some facilities have established firm policies and procedures to ensure that staff supports residents’ rights.

In the final analysis, it definitely is possible for a married couple to maintain a healthy, intimate relationship when one spouse moves into assisted living. In the end, it really is a matter of location and not a complete upending of a couple’s life and relationship.