Any Reason to not Enjoy Sex if you are in a Nursing Home?


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A while back there was a headline in the New York Times about a well-known retired politician who was charged with rape for allegedly having sexual relations with his wife. This would of course not have been a story were it not for the fact that his wife was at the time of the alleged event living in a nursing home and experiencing cognitive impairment to a significant degree. The story as it unfolded was the result of her two adult children who were from a previous marriage bringing charges to her husband because it was felt that being afflicted with dementia and being deemed by her physician as “incapable” of providing consent to the intimate act, that he would therefore be liable for the criminal offence of rape.

Many who heard the story were shocked and astounded that a husband was not able to have sexual relations with his wife because she was living with dementia even though there was nothing to suggest that he was acting against her wishes or with force or coercion. The usual legal measure of consent was the one usually reserved for the giving of consent for a medical condition rather than for an act of sexual intimacy which had it occurred in the couple’s residence prior to her being admitted to the nursing home would not have resulted in what appeared to be quite a scandal.

As it turned out the husband was acquitted of the charges on what was in essence a technicality in that no one had actually witnessed the act on which the charges were laid and the evidence obtained was at best indirect. The importance of the case was not however lost on the legal profession and on those caring for those living with dementia. There were many who came to the defence of the intrinsic right of those whatever their medical conditions and their cognitive function to be able to participate in and enjoy the benefits and satisfactions of sexual intimacy whether at home or in a nursing home with those with whom they wish to share this precious physical emotional connection.

Maybe the time has come for people to express in the same way what they indicate as their wishes for medical treatments to those who will make decisions on their part that they wish to be able to participate in sexual intimacy with those that they have done so in the past or with whom they have indicated—whether in writing or communication—so that those perhaps who do not understand the importance of sexual intimacy or who have value systems that belittle the importance of such activities in one’s later life or when one’s cognition may not be “normal” can still enjoy the wonderful attributes of sexual intimacy.