Nursing Home Residents and Sexual Relations: An Issue that Needs to be Addressed

June 29th, 2015 by beasleyferber

An interesting report from the Washington Post (4/23/15) highlights a growing issue, that of the sex lives of nursing home residents. Henry Rayhons is a 78-year-old retired farmer and former state leglislator in Iowa. His wife Donna was in a nursing home due to dementia, and Mr. Rayhons was accused of having sexual relations with her when she did not have capacity to consent. He pleaded not guilty, stating that all that they did was pray, hold hands and kiss. The evidence that the state presented was ambiguous, and, perhaps as a result of that, (although we do not exactly know) Mr. Rayhons was acquitted.
According to the newspaper article, the fact that someone has Alzheimer’s does not necessarily mean that they cannot consent to sexual activity, because their desire for physical contact may be unaffected, and intimacy may be comforting to them. However, it is a complex issue, and very few nursing homes have any policies on it. One thing is clear, though: The issue needs to be addressed, and is not going away.

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