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Sexuality and aging: a focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) needs in palliative and end of life care

Griebling, Tomas L.

Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care: March 2016 - Volume 10 - Issue 1 - p 95–101
doi: 10.1097/SPC.0000000000000196
SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH ISSUES IN CANCER: Edited by Janet Ellis and Elie Isenberg-Grzeda

Purpose of review Sex and sexuality are core components of the human experience. Many older adults and people with terminal illness still consider sexuality important in their lives. The palliative care experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons are unique in a number of important ways with regard to sexuality and sexual expression.

Recent findings To date, there has been relatively limited scholarly research on sexual health needs of people in palliative care and near end of life, and an even greater paucity of data specifically about sexual minorities. Forms of sexual expression may change with advancing age and illness. Physical intimacy and emotional connection may take on greater roles compared with more traditional concepts of sexual activity. Several recent studies have examined sexual health in palliative care and a few have examined LGBT cohorts. Advances in public policy, including the recent US Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality, have continued to shape the cultural landscape for LGBT people. This article reviews recent literature with considerations for future research.

Summary Sexuality and intimacy remain important for many people facing terminal illness. LGBT people face unique challenges with regard to sexuality during palliative care. Clinicians should work to avoid heteronormative stereotypes and focus on goals of care to enhance quality of life for all patients.

Department of Urology, Landon Center on Aging, University of Kansas, Kansas City, Kansas, USA

Correspondence to Tomas L. Griebling, MD, MPH, Department of Urology, and The Landon Center on Aging, School of Medicine, University of Kansas, Mailstop 3016, 3901 Rainbow Boulevard, Kansas City, KS 66160, USA. Tel: +1 913 588 6147; fax: +1 913 588 7625; e-mail:

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