Sex and the Elderly (Part 1)

Sex and the elderlySex harassment is a big issue these days. But less public is a component of that issue: when does yes mean yes, specifically when dealing with sexual consent by those with dementia. This is the first in a two-part series.

When can a person with dementia consent to intimacy and when should that right of consent be taken from them is highlighted by a landmark case involving Henry Rayhons.  This case raises some important questions regarding personal relationships of those who develop memory debilitating diseases and their loved ones. 

In May 2014, the State of Iowa charged Henry Rayhons with sexual assault of his wife, a felony.  He faced a possible ten (10) year sentence if found guilty. 

Henry Rayhons and Donna Rayhons were married in 2007.  It was the second marriage for both of them and they both had adult children.  According to friends and family, they were very much in love.  Donna was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was eventually placed in a nursing home by her adult daughters. 

According to various news reports that covered the trial, Donna was evaluated by a facility doctor for a number of reasons, including capacity.  Upon Donna’s daughters’ request, the doctor advised Henry that Donna did not have capacity to consent to sex.  Eight days after being advised of this doctor’s opinion, Henry visited Donna in the facility, which she shared with an 86 year old female roommate.  While there it was alleged that he engaged in sexual acts with his wife based on a report made by Donna’s roommate and physical evidence gathered at the scene.  

In order to prove its case, the prosecution had to prove two facts beyond a reasonable doubt:  (1) that Henry and Donna Rayhons, engaged in sexual relations on the night in question; and (2) that Donna Rayhons, was unable to consent to those activities.  A jury determined that the prosecution did not prove these two facts and found Henry “not guilty.”  The exact reasons for the jury’s decision are unknown, only that they rendered a verdict of not guilty.

Regardless, the case brought up many concerns and questions for all of us.  One of the main concerns this case brings up is the necessity of physical touch and intimacy for all people, especially as we age and even more so for those with dementia.  Human contact can come in many forms and it is vital for all of us.  Sexual intimacy is one form of human contact that many adults take for granted.  However, when one goes to live in an assisted living or nursing home facility, that right may be taken away or altered.

Unfortunately, there may come a point when a person with advanced Alzheimer’s may be unable to recognize a spouse or loved one.  This is excruciating for the unrecognized loved one and we imagine it is confusing, frustrating and isolating for the patient.  What if that same patient begins to find another patient at the facility attractive, begins to flirt or even “fall in love”?  Some of you may recall the national news reports several years ago when a similar situation occurred with Justice O’Connor’s husband who suffered from advanced dementia. 

It should come as no surprise to anyone that sexual activity among older adults is an issue nursing homes are must be forced to deal with.  Reasonable policies governing the behaviors of residents must be instituted. Tomorrow blog discusses some possible solutions to what many failed to anticipate would be one of the issues they might face.



Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment


We have a LOT more where that came from!

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

Call Now ButtonCall Us Now https://jsfiddle.net/7h5246b8/

Request a free consultation

We hate spam too. We will never share or sell your information.

We've been putting together as many resources as possible so that we can continue to help:

  • If you’re a current client with a signing appointment or a prospective client with a consultation and would prefer that meeting take place in your own home, we can accomplish that with a little bit of pre-planning on our part and with the addition of a laptop, smartphone, tablet or other computer in your home to facilitate this virtual meeting. For those of you that need to sign legal documents, that too can be accomplished with the use of a webcam (FaceTime etc.), so that we can witness and electronically notarize all of your important legal documents.
  • We launched the rollout of our on-demand webinar early so that new clients and our allied professionals can view the important component parts of ‘an estate plan that works’ at their convenience.  That is available on our website.
  • Live video workshops will be produced as quickly as possible and certainly ahead of our previous schedule; we will keep you posted as these events become available. Given the ‘boutique’ nature of the firm, we rarely have more than ten people in our office including team members at any one time. During this period of ‘social distancing,’ we promise to have no more than 8 people at any time.   This allows us to comply with the Governor’s directive to limit in-person gatherings.
  • The best way to communicate with us is still by phone during regular office hours of 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, or, you can email any of our team members (that is, their first name followed by @zarembalaw.com).  We will respond to these emails as quickly as possible.
  • Please continue to follow the directives of our local, state, and federal agencies. For your health and in consideration of our team who is assisting you, if you’ve scheduled an office appointment or planned to drop off paperwork and are experiencing a fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath, please contact your primary care doctor for guidance and then our office to reschedule.

Thank you, Walt and the Zaremba Team

Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.