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The Association Between Sexual Disinhibition and Family Caregiver Burden in Dementia

Dementia caregiving is costly for society and has been linked to many adverse outcomes in the caregiver, including financial and occupational strain, greater psychological distress, and physical comorbidities, together termed “caregiver burden.” Certain dementia care recipient characteristics, such as the presence of neuropsychiatric symptoms (e.g., hallucinations, agitation), are associated with high caregiver burden. One neuropsychiatric symptom, sexual disinhibition, has received little research attention. The present study examined demographic characteristics of sexual disinhibition and the relationship between sexual disinhibition and caregiver burden as reported by 416 informal (i.e., family) dementia caregivers recruited through social media dementia caregiving groups. Results showed 15.9% of caregivers reported sexual disinhibition in their care recipient. A higher percentage of male care recipients were reported to display sexual disinhibition (Sexual disinhibition group; SD) compared to the percentage of males who were reported to display no sexual disinhibition (No sexual disinhibition group; NSD). Care recipients in the SD group were younger compared to care recipients in the NSD group. Groups did not differ in dementia diagnosis or duration of disease. The SD group did not report a significantly higher level of caregiver burden compared to the NSD group, though there was a trend toward significance. Frequency of sexual disinhibition did not predict caregiver burden within the SD group, and frequency of other neuropsychiatric symptoms accounted for greater variance in caregiver burden than did frequency of sexual disinhibition within the SD group. The current work adds to the literature by characterizing the demographics of sexual disinhibition as reported by a large sample of informal caregivers, and by examining the links between sexual disinhibition and caregiver burden. Findings suggest that sexual disinhibition occurs with great enough frequency that it should be routinely considered by clinicians screening for behavioral problems in dementia patients. Although no significant associations between sexual disinhibition and caregiver burden were revealed within this sample, it is possible that methodological constraints obscured these relationships. Future work should re-examine these questions using different methods. If a relationship between sexual disinhibition and caregiver burden is found, methods for managing caregiver burden in the presence of sexual disinhibition should be explored.

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Kent State University
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