'I hired a sex worker for my elderly dad'

ANITA PITT-OWEN
Last updated 16:53 25/03/2013
elderly

A DAUGHTER'S PERSPECTIVE: "I could be be shocked by the fact my father was enjoying the services of someone closer to my age than his, but how many 90-year-old sex workers are there?"

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I hired a sex worker for my late 93-year-old father. He had dementia and lived in a nursing home when he said to me: "You'll need to find me a woman."

Perhaps a natural reaction from a daughter in this situation would be uncomfortably laughing it off, voicing disgust or flat out refusing. Rather than saying: "You shouldn't be thinking about that any more Dad", I took his request seriously and started looking for "a woman".

My father was a sexual person. Much to my embarrassment growing up, he talked openly about sex and wouldn't hold back from over sharing with anyone - not even his kids.

In his later years he had dementia with Lewy bodies, a degenerative disease that causes nerve cells in the brain to die. He shared a bed with his partner who also had dementia. She eventually did not recognise my father. This had a huge impact on him.

Changes to my father's cognitive function saw a role reversal in our relationship. I began caring for the man who cared for me my whole life. I'm a disability support worker and I've seen how an individual's sexuality needs to be considered. I always knew my father may eventually need help with his personal intimate life. Clearly, this wasn't about me. It was about him, a person who could no longer do everything he used to.

I can only imagine how daunting it must be for an elderly person to ask family members or nursing home staff to find them a sexual partner. It's crucial to consider how much that person would be missing intimacy and touch to even voice such a request. They may have lost much of who they used to be: their partner, mobility, cognitive function or continence and the ability to do simple things like eating or dressing. Some people, like my father did, have lost all of the above. It was important to me that his dignity be respected at all times.

Sometimes all an elderly person living alone is seeking is a companion and a bit of closeness and affection. This would be especially so at night because most of their adult life they've been fallen asleep holding their partner. My father, who passed away only recently, needed both.

I had to establish if Dad was serious about giving me this task or if it was merely a comment resulting from the depressing realisation that anything he had with his partner was well and truly in the past. He was serious, so I needed to work out if he wanted me to find him a companion or someone to have sex with. He wanted both.

The answer to Dad's request fell in my lap before I even began my search for a sex worker online and through disability support groups. I was watching TV and a documentary called 'Scarlet Road' was on. It's about a sex worker who has disabled clients. I learned about Touching Base, an organisation that provides sexual services to the elderly and disabled. I could see from the documentary they were acutely aware of people's intimate needs beyond sex. They saw how important other forms of contact were, like holding hands. I sent them an email.

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Touching Base put me in contact with People with Disabilities who assessed how the service needed to be tailored to my father. I was then introduced to the person they thought most suitable: 'Emma'.

They couldn't have found anyone to equal her and what she gave to my Dad. Now that he is gone, I will remain connected with Emma.

The cost of 'Emma's' services gob-smacked me at first. I found out it's on par with what other sex workers charge but 'Emma' gave much more. She spent an entire afternoon and evening with Dad for the same price. Her time with my father included having drinks and a chat, a gentle massage, a cuddle and whatever else he wanted. If he fell asleep she would wait until he was ready to wake up.

After time with Emma, my father's well-being and consequently his behaviour improved. His nocturnal wanderings ceased where he often experienced falls resulting in horrid skin tears. He wasn't as agitated. He didn't obsess over things like he used to. He was serene, happy and relaxed.

I could easily be shocked by the fact my father was enjoying the services of someone closer to my age than his, but hey, how many 90-year-old sex workers are there? They have a retirement plan too. And 'Emma' was perfect.

You have your life. Allow each elderly person in your life to gracefully have what's left of theirs.

- FFX Aus

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