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Located in Bethlehem, PA, Lehigh University is a premier private residential research university. Most of our students-undergraduate and graduate-live on campus, allowing research and discovery to happen almost anywhere. We are ranked in the top tier of nation... more.
Women's Studies Coalition Coordinator
Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
Americans for Insurance Reform
Dalkon Shield Information Network
Sexuality and Aging Consortium
Board of Trustees Member
"We are sexual beings all the way to the tomb," says Dr. Karen Hicks, adjunct professor of Human Sexuality and Women's Reproductive Health at Lehigh University.
She'll also tell you that sexuality and the quest for intimacy doesn't simply disappear when you're mentally challenged. Hicks has been offering seminars on this topic for staff in assisted-living and nursing facilities and has found that most of them want to learn how to better respond to the sexual needs of their residents, as do family members. Here is some of the astute advice she shared with me during a recent interview: People with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia can give permission for sharing sexual intimacy with another consenting adult. It might not be in words or in formalized statements but rather it will be conveyed through nonverbal acts such as holding hands, touching, smiling or flirting. Hicks will be the first to remind you that this type of nonverbal communicating isn't all that different from how most people signal their interest in having sex with another. Hicks advises staff and families to ask themselves, "Does the act of sexual intimacy [physical and emotional] bring joy and cause no harm to anyone directly involved in the contact or indirectly involved? Hicks suggests that each of us take the time to reflect upon our own feelings, values and beliefs about sex and intimacy before deciding what to do in response to an older individual's appropriate or inappropriate sexual behavior. Sometimes we impose our beliefs or react to our own discomfort rather than fully appreciating the needs of others. Couples, whether they are consenting adults within a facility or a well spouse visiting his loved one, should be provided private space to physically express their love for each other. Institutions make it rather difficult for people to practice intimacy. "We seem to assume that when you enter a long-term care facility you either have been or will be celibate," Hicks says.
Karen M. Hicks, PhD, CSE
Karen M. Hicks, PhD, CSE, has been a sexuality educator for more than 25 years. She is an adjunct professor of Human Sexuality and Women's Reproductive Health at Lehigh University. She has facilitated more than 30 workshops on topics including sexuality in aging and aged populations, menopause, body image and teenage pregnancy. Her expertise includes educational technology and online learning, and she developed a Medscape online CME course on female sexual problems. In 2010, she was named an Our Bodies, Ourselves Women's Health Hero for her significant, long-lasting contributions to women's health.
By Karen M. Hicks Karen M. Hicks is founder of the Dalkon Shield Information Network.She teaches women's health courses at Lehigh University in Bethlehem.Her Web site is at http://www.karenhicks.net .
Karen Hicks, PhD, an AASECT-certified sex educator at Lehigh University, is the lead author of this CME course, with input from several "New View" physicians and psychologists.
Karen Hicks, PhD (Past Co-President)**