How Is Intimacy Impacted If a Person's Caregiver Is Also Their Sexual Partner?


How is intimacy impacted if an person's caregiver is also their sexual partner?


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[Glenn Parkinson] In my experience, after a brain injury of any severity, people have a process of self-evaluation that they go through. People don't feel like the same person that they used to be. For some people it's a more drastic change, in terms of a change in their personality, a change in the way that they interact with other people, an inability to function independently in some ways, and for some people it's a much milder change, but there's still a sense that they're not quite the person that they used to be. For many people with brain injury, even if it's sort of a short term in the very beginning, there's also a period in which they have a caregiver— someone who helps them with things, helps them keep track of their medication, helps them keep track of their medical appointments—that kind of thing. For someone who used to be independent, who used to be an adult, who used to take care of themselves, and—for our population in particular— who was in combat or was deployed, that feels like a huge fall. It feels like a big loss in terms of a sense of being autonomous and being able to take care of yourself. That really, to me, is the root of a lot of the issues related to sexual health— how people feel about themselves in general. Your self-esteem can be diminished. Even if you still feel kind of confident about who you are and have an outlook for your future, you sort of feel differently about having someone take care of you. So it's hard to feel like you're autonomous. It's hard to feel sexy when someone's there. If you take your medication—whether it's your mom, or your wife, or whomever it is— That's something that comes up a lot with caregivers—the change in people's role. How do you negotiate that— being someone's caregiver for most of the day and then being someone's sexual partner in bed? That's very challenging.
Posted on BrainLine May 13, 2013.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Erica Queen, BrainLine.

About the author: Glenn Parkinson

Glenn Parkinson, MSW, MA works as the psychotherapist on the Traumatic Brain Injury service at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. She works with active duty and retired military personnel and their families specializing in combat-related injuries.

Glenn Parkinson