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Intimacy and Disabilities

Published April 8, 2016 11:51 AM by Dillon Stickle

This blog was written by Kate Bortz, editorial assistant at ADVANCE and the on-site correspondent for AOTA 2016.

CHICAGO -- While occupational therapists deal with the many day-to-day functions of their patients, Kathryn Ellis, MOT, and Michelle Nordstrom, MOT, from the Walter Reed National Medical Center noted an area that hadn't been fully addressed. Ellis, alongside Caitlin Dennison, MOT, published a resource for wounded veterans on intimacy issues entitled "Sex and Intimacy for Wounded Veterans: A Guide to Embracing Change." At AOTA's 2016 conference in Chicago, Ill., Ellis addressed the occupational therapist's role in reintegrating intimacy strategies for those with disabilities.

In order to help the patient, Ellis suggests noting what patients liked prior to the disability and to openly communicate with the patient in an appropriate and respectful manner.

"It's hard for even us to talk about. Imagine how hard it is for the patients," Ellis said.

Ellis urges those in the field to gauge how their coworkers feel about the subject and how they address the issue of intimacy with their patients. She also suggests speaking with the person who coordinates inservice and educate.

"We are really doing a disservice to our patients by not doing this," Ellis said. "We have patients who wind up getting divorced, and we have patients who really enjoyed this part of their life [before the disability]. That can lead to depression."

For those at the conference and interested in this topic, Ellis will be hosting a student session on Friday, April 8, at 3:30 p.m. on "Engaging in Sexual Activity and Intimacy Post-Polytrauma Combat Injury: An Occupational Therapy Perspective."

Ellis and Dennison's guide is available on Amazon.

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