View Full Version : Alzheimer's & Sex

Ian McColgin
04-08-2015, 08:06 AM
[IMc - Something like this could have been an issue for my parents had Dad been unable to maintain Mom at home as her Alzheimer's advanced. Same for an uncle and aunt. This appears sparked by differing points of view between the blended family off-spring. In the case of my parents, Mom could always say "no", and she did when she didn't want something to happen. And Dad respected her wishes. We can't know if this was the case for the Rayhons but given the age of everyone and the totality of medical information available in the press, it seems to me uncommonly tasteless to file charges the day after her death. From the Des Moines Register]

Trial to weigh whether ailing wife was able to consent to sex
Associated Press 6:27 p.m. CDT April 7, 2015

When Henry and Donna Lou Rayhons married seven years ago in their northern Iowa hometown, it was a second chance at love for the devoted couple, both previously widowed. But their domestic routine of church activities and political functions unraveled as Donna's health began to fail.

Last year, the 78-year-old woman was moved into a nursing home, suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. According to Henry Rayhon's family, this was decided by her daughters from a previous marriage. Conflict developed over how to care for Donna Lou Rayhons, culminating in a meeting in which staff told Henry Rayhons that his wife was no longer mentally capable of legally consenting to have sex.

State prosecutors say Henry Rayhons — a long-serving state lawmaker — ignored that message. On Wednesday, he will stand trial for sexually assaulting his wife, who died last August. The charges were filed days after she died.

Can a wife with dementia say yes to sex?

Many couples experience the hardships of illness, mental decline and living apart, but what happened with the Rayhons has little precedent. Experts could not think of another rape case that happened because a previously consenting spouse could no longer legally acquiesce.

"This is the first one I've seen," said Mark Kosieradzki, a Minneapolis-based attorney who has tried numerous cases of sexual abuse in nursing homes. "It's a case that's going to be focusing on the rights of the vulnerable. Just because you're married, it doesn't mean you need to check your consent rights at the door."

Through an attorney, Donna Lou Rayhons' daughters declined to discuss the case. The state Attorney General's office also declined. And Henry Rayhons, who has said that he is innocent, refused an interview through a son.

Last summer, when the charges were first filed, Henry Rayhons' family released a statement.

"Donna's location did not change Dad's love for Donna nor her love for him. It did not change their marriage relationship. And so he continued to have contact with his spouse in the nursing home; who among us would not," read the statement, which went on to call the charges "illogical and unnatural."

The crux of the case is the question of Donna Lou Rayhons' ability to consent. Iowa law defines an act as sexual abuse in the third degree if the two parties are not living together as husband and wife and if one person "is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent."

Elizabeth Edgerly, a clinical psychologist who serves as chief program officer for the nonprofit Alzheimer's Association, said determining capacity is challenging.

"Is the person capable of saying 'no' if they don't want to do something? That's one of the biggest pieces," said Edgerly, who frequently lectures on sexuality and Alzheimer's.

But Edgerly also noted that patients can vary day to day and said that physical closeness can be reassuring to many, noting: "For most people with dementia, even long into the disease, they take comfort in being with people who love them."

Rayhons is charged with sexual abuse in the third degree and could serve up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Shortly before the charges were filed, Rayhons withdrew from a race to serve a 10th term in the Iowa House of Representatives.

The Iowa attorney general's office sought to move the trial out of Hancock County, where Rayhons lives, arguing that they would not be able to find an impartial jury after the extensive news coverage. But a judge denied the request.

Court documents provide a window into the bitter case, which has left a family divided.

In late March of last year, Donna Lou Rayhons moved to a nursing home in Garner. The clashes over her care built until a meeting in May during which Henry Rayhons was informed of his wife's inability to consent. According to court documents, Henry Rayhons entered his wife's room about a week later, pulled the curtains around her bed and a roommate heard noises that suggested sexual activity. As Rayhons left, he dropped undergarments in a laundry basket.

Not long after that incident, one of Donna Rayhons' adult daughters went to court and won temporary guardianship.

A state crime lab found semen stains on Donna Lou Rayhons' quilt and a sheet that matched Henry Rayhons' genetic profile. The charging document says he confessed to sexual activity that night, but in an interview last year on the Dr. Drew On Call show on the HLN network, his son Dale Rayhons said the police interview was taken out of context.

Dale Rayhons said in a recent statement to The Associated Press that he supports his father, adding that: "to have found love and companionship this late in their lives was an extraordinary and special thing for both Dad and Donna."

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Norman Bernstein
04-08-2015, 08:08 AM
This is one of those cases where I'd be a complete fool to offer any opinion whatsoever.... and I'd be pretty suspect of anyone who did.

04-08-2015, 08:38 AM
The guy did that in a semi-private room? That in itself is pretty sick.

04-08-2015, 08:47 AM
That is... interesting.

04-08-2015, 08:59 AM
This is über-creepy, of course.

But a few years ago while writing a legislative proposal about Advanced Care Directives, we found that the state-of-play on consent issues isn't as unequivocal as many initially might think. One can be competent to make decisions in one area of life (i.e. do I want a bath now, do i want toast or a muffin) but not in another (do I want to divest my stock portfolio).

The test was:

Is the person able to understand the question, and the consequences of an answer?
Is the person capable of giving or withholding consent?

It's entirely possible that a person with Alzheimers may, at least at times, be fully competent to decide whether or not to have sex - with their spouse, or someone else. And that while they retain such competence, they have a right to exercise it. Even when the whole notion feels icky to some of us.

I am kinda glad, though, that this wasn't an issue when my Dad was dying of Alzheimer's. His drive disappeared before those kinds of questions needed to be faced.

Ted Hoppe
04-08-2015, 11:03 AM
The guy did that in a semi-private room? That in itself is pretty sick.

to to be human and want contact with a loved spouse is natural although is might be far off in this case..

Our society does not treat people with illness or their families with respect and dignity that is befitting the nature of private lives and coping mechanism that they move through. The real issue is that no exceptions are made for those inflicted and those surviving their illness - a semiprivate room is a lonely place. I am sure if the family of this woman and her husband paid 20,000 a month for a private room - we we be calling them all loving, saintly and caring. As Norm said.... We can't judge and we don't know if the act was done while there was moments of clarity or in the fog or as a criminal act.

George Jung
04-08-2015, 11:17 AM
Nothing about this case is certain - too few critical details. But my 'gut' is - stepdad wasn't appreciated by this ladies daughters. Of course, that opinion won't even get you a cuppa, without another few bucks.

Ian McColgin
04-08-2015, 11:24 AM
George Jung is absolutely correct that we really won't fully get the family dynamics and the rights or wrongs of the situation for this family. The main value of the story is how we take it for our selves. Many of us have or had aging parents where these things could be an issue. Many of us are aging ourselves and seeing these things in a new light. Growing old is not for wimps.

Keith Wilson
04-08-2015, 11:39 AM
It seems that a full-on sexual assault charge is at the very least an extremely blunt instrument in this case.

John of Phoenix
04-08-2015, 11:46 AM
I'm surprised these people don't have their own reality TV show. America loves dysfunctional families.

04-08-2015, 12:54 PM
You would think that there might be a solution that does not involve the courts. That, to my way of thinking, is the real tragedy.

04-08-2015, 02:06 PM
^ I agree, but money could be a motivator.

One side grappled guardianship from the other.SO how about this scenario:

"Now that we have control, oops, we also have bills."
"Oh, I know. Lets sue Step Dad for this to leverage him to help make the payments."


Glen Longino
04-08-2015, 05:32 PM
Sex? What the hell is sex?
Sorry, I had to do it!:)
Carry on!

Glen Longino
04-08-2015, 06:22 PM

How about if I made a joke with glenn in it?.

Nope gonna pass!

C'mon, chicken!:)

Tom Hunter
04-08-2015, 06:34 PM
There are cases of people going into nursing homes due to cognitive decline, meeting someone they find attractive and having sex, then being stopped by the nursing home, or by their respective children. I have nothing to say about this particular case, but I am very uncomfortable with the idea that people might be denied physical affection because they are old and declining, and someone young and healthy finds that creepy.

04-08-2015, 09:43 PM
This raises a pointed question with me:

Why did the husband not have the healthcare POA and the daughter did?

Unless the woman before the onset of the dementia legally elected the daughter to have her healthcare POA (which tells me there is more to the story) then the healthcare POA is automatically granted to the spouse.

04-09-2015, 12:14 AM
Why don't they remove ". . . to have and to hold from this day forth . . ." from marriage vows?

Why should anyone get 'married' any more?

David W Pratt
04-09-2015, 11:24 AM
I'm reminded of the two residents of a nursing home who hit it off. They didn't really have sex, but she would hold his bow sprit as they sat under a tree. Then he started seeing another woman. The first woman confronted the man and asked, what does she have that I don't?
He replied, Parkinson's

Dave Hadfield
04-09-2015, 01:34 PM
I know this isn't a funny issue, but a friend of mine had the problem arise between her parents. Her Mother was aging well, but he Father was developing Alzheimers. Trouble was, his sex drive was still quite strong for a man in his 80s. They had separate bedrooms, but he was still knocking on her door for sex.

She'd say, "But we made love last night!" He'd reply, with no memory of the event, "No we didn't". And stand there all fired up and ready to go.

This went on for some time, and was making life unpleasant for her. Then she had an idea -- she printed tickets. "This coupon entitles the bearer to one sexual encounter!" And she handed him 3 tickets at the start of every week.

He may have had Alzheimers, but he figured that one out pretty fast.

Domestic harmony was restored, until finally the disease progressed and, sadly, he had to go into a nursing home.

I don't know how he made out there...


Michael D. Storey
04-09-2015, 04:11 PM
I admit to having not read every entry here, but I would mention what I feel is an immeasurably painful human moment. During the act, the woman forgot who she was with, and saw him as a stranger.

Considering that the deteriorating mind is not static, it is not an open and shut matter.

May it remain good until the end, for one and all

jack grebe
04-09-2015, 05:23 PM
Was the misses upset in any way after contact?

One may have dementia, but still know abuse when
it happens......

Sounds like a cash grab/extortion attempt.