The Age of Consent – Sex and Dementia

“After a four-year battle with Alzheimer’s, Donna Lou Rayhons died in a nursing home in August, just four days shy of her 79th birthday. A week later, Henry Rayhons was arrested and charged with sexual abuse. State prosecutors accused him of having sex with his wife while she was incapacitated by dementia.”

“Today, [Henry]’s awaiting trial on a felony charge that he raped Donna at a nursing home where she was living.”

“Rayhons’s trial, […], is a rare and possibly unprecedented examination of a little-explored aspect of consent. […], the Rayhons case asks a much different question: When is a previously consenting spouse suffering from dementia no longer able to say yes to sex?”

On the young side of consent, the legal system has determined at exactly what age someone is mentally mature enough to give consent. In Maine, that’s 16 years old. In theory, before that age, the brain hasn’t fully developed enough to permit young people to make rational informed decisions – as opposed to the impulsive immediate-gratification hormone-driven decisions that give youth a reputation that parents dread.

Is there an age or a circumstance that could determine when someone is no longer able to give informed consent – for sex or anything else? Is there a generalization that would be applicable to all ages? How much power does a “Power of Attorney” convey?

In this legal case, the fact that grampa Henry was satisfying himself with his wife of 6 years is being called a rape because gramma was unable to give informed consent. I am so glad this wasn’t my grampa and gramma. They have memory tests from gramma. “[T]he women and doctors concluded that Donna was no longer able to consent to sex, a fact Rayhons was informed of.

But a week later, on May 23, surveillance video showed Rayhons spending about 30 minutes in his wife’s room. When he left, he was holding her underwear, which he dropped into a laundry bag in the hallway.” “[Iowa] outlawed non-consensual sex between a husband and wife 25 years ago.” ” [Iowa] law also defines sex with a person suffering from a ‘mental defect or incapacity’ as sexual abuse but is not explicit about what is meant by the term ‘mental defect.’ ”

The case came to trial in Iowa on April 8, 2015, and is expected to last two weeks. This is worth watching even if it gives you the creeps thinking about gramma and grampa having sex.

Like it or not, this isn’t the only situation when a man kept his wife “Aging in Place” for reasons other than cost. If you are a caregiver or provider, and you just aren’t sure what to do if you suspect something unwelcome is happening, please call Adult Protective Services.

By the way – you have to read the full story to uncover the hidden agendas being served up in court. Or wait for the Law & Order version.

Sources: Washington Post 4-7-2015 / Bloomberg 12-9-2014

Kenneth Capron

About Kenneth Capron

Ken Capron comes from a medical background. His Dad was Maine’s 3rd radiologist. His Mom a Mass General nurse. His sister a Physical Therapist in Maryland. His oldest sister was a Resident Manager of a senior housing facility in Maryland. Ken himself was trained as a CPA with a focus on non-profits and healthcare. He worked as Controller at Wentworth-Douglas in Dover and then six years as Director of Accounting at Maine Med. Ken likes to say he’s had 16 different careers – from Real Estate Broker to hobby store owner. Ken also is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. In 2013, Ken founded MemoryWorks to provide support to people with dementia, their caregivers and all the providers that care for PWD.