STDs: A New Reality For Seniors

African American senior couple in kitchen hugging with coffee mugs

I met a gentleman at a social event recently who asked me what I did for a living.  A detailed and accurate answer would be: “I’m the author of a very well received book on Eldercare, a senior services business owner, and Eldercare expert who works with Caregivers to better care for their loved ones while taking care of themselves, their families and their careers.”   But, saying all of that sounds pompous (and simply takes too long).  So normally I just say, “I’m in the eldercare space.”

READ: Prevent Caregiver Burnout

Usually, the conversation goes one of two ways after that. Either the person immediately tells me about their personal eldercare challenges – which is a fairly common response since 1 in 3 U.S. adults is a caregiver to an elderly person – or, their eyes glaze over and they immediately change the topic. This time, I received a response that fit squarely into the first category.

The gentleman immediately started telling me about his favorite 86-year-old uncle who contracted an STD while living in an Alabama nursing home. Evidently, he and his family had several theories about how he contracted the disease. His colorfully detailed, profanity laced retelling of all the theories were so funny I could barely bring myself to tell him that they were all likely wrong (or at least, not fully informed). Eventually, my professionalism overwhelmed my desire to keep laughing and I explained the realities of seniors and STDs.

STDs in the elderly on the rise

STD transmission among the elderly is, unfortunately, a common and growing problem. For example, between 2007 and 2011, chlamydia infections among Americans 65 and over increased by 31 percent, and syphilis by 52 percent.

READ: 10 Easiest States To Catch An STD

Most caregivers are surprised because they never imaged sexually transmitted diseases to be one of the many issues they could encounter when caring for an elderly loved one.  After hearing the bad news the caregiver’s first question is usually, “How did this happen?”?

The reality is your college-aged daughter on spring break and your grandmother in the nursing home should each be equally worried about catching chlamydia from the guy (or the grandfather) next door.

A more detailed examination of “why” runs the gamut from the simple to the complex:

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