Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Everyone is having sex! Even grandma!

One of the themes of Occupational Therapy is to enable people to engage in occupations, or their everyday activities, that make them happy or are meaningful to them. These activities vary from person to person and it will my job to discover what a client's occupations are and give them the tools to engage in it.

About a week or so ago in my Ethics course we discussed something that affects most people at some point and is as natural as breathing: S-E-X! There are eight Areas of Occupation in Occupational Therapy. An Area of Occupation is a 'category' under which any activity in which you engage falls. These areas are, in no particular order:

Activities of Daily Living (activities you do to take care of your own body, like feeding or dressing yourself)
Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (activities you do in home/community that are a bit more complex than ADL's, like taking care of a pet or balancing your checkbook)
Rest & Sleep




Social Participation

Under Social Participation falls sexual activity. Many people don't think about seniors or people with disabilities wanting to have sex, let alone actually having sex. But those that fall into these groups have these desires the same as everyone else.

As an OT, I have to consider that this subject may come up with a client--What sexual activities are available for a 23-year old male with a spinal cord injury? How do I address this with a client? How can I create an environment and a trusting relationship so that the client is comfortable discussing this with me? Am I willing to accept that my 80-year old male client in the nursing home wants to hump his 78-year old female peer?

Many of us can't think about our parents having sex, we often cringe--ewwwwww!--because it's too gross. But it happens! (How do you think we all got here anyway?) And others of us don't think about seniors or people with disabilities having sex because it's not a subject we deal with regularly or we don't believe sex is an option for them. But it is...

An illustration:

A few years ago, a gentlemen of about 45 or 50-years old who is an upper manager in a hospital called me and requested that I help one of his elderly clients with a real estate issue she was having. This woman was 71 or 72 years old at the time, I can't remember exactly which. When I showed up at her house to talk with her we got off the subject on more personal matters and the conversation went something like this:

Her: I'm glad you came by because I don't get many visitors. Who sent you again?

Me: Mr. X, you know, the Manager of Unit Y at Hospital Z.

Her: Oh my goodness! HE sent you! Wow, he is just so handsome! I want to marry him but he has a wife and I would have to find a way to get rid of her first. She's not all that cute anyway. So he sent you, huh? That means he was thinking about me! He makes me hot! I just want to throw him down on the table and kiss him. I would just let him have his way with me, I really would. I need to get over to that hospital and see him as soon as possible. And... (she goes on and on)

Me (stunned and trying not to look utterly appalled, but probably failing at this attempt): Lady this is NOT what I want to hear. Really, it isn't. You're old, like old enough to be my grandmother. Please keep those comments to yourself...

Ok, seriously, what I really said was something like: Wow, really? You should go see him. (but I said it REAL dry)

So you see, even Occupational Therapists have their faults. I'm really opening myself up to you all right now by admitting my thoughts on this conversation. But I'm doing this because I want to illustrate that everyone has sexual desires and we shouldn't put people in a box just because we can't imagine them doing things outside of that box. It's important to open our horizons because engagement in activities you enjoy makes life interesting and fun, right? Of course! And this is what Occupational Therapy is all about.

So, in a nutshell, everyone is having sex! Just accept it! Ha ha!

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