Are Seniors With Dementia Able?

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Are Seniors with Dementia Able to Consent to Sex? If we are lucky, we will all live to be old and gray. One of the current and controversial issues facing today’s seniors is sexual health and how to manage sexual activity within a nursing facility. The uncomfortable fact that seniors are sexually active is compounded when the seniors in question are diagnosed with dementia. Are seniors who are suffering from dementia able to sexually consent? Firstly, what is dementia? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is an overall term, not a specific disease, which includes multiple symptoms that impair a patient’s ability to remember and reason. There are several different kinds of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, occurring in 60 to 80 percent of dementia patients, is the most common. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include memory loss, especially recent memories, depression, difficulty speaking, confusion, and behavioral changes. The second most common kind of dementia, occurring in about 10 percent of patients, is vascular dementia and typically occurs as a result of a stroke. While memory loss may also be a symptom of vascular dementia, the most common symptom is impaired judgment, and the ability to organize thoughts. A third kind of dementia is called dementia with Lewy bodies or DLB. Patients with DLB are not only subject to the type of memory lost that is noted in Alzheimer’s disease, but are also prone to visual hallucinations. While there are several other kinds of dementia, it is important to note that all types include either memory loss, impaired reasoning or judgment, or difficulty communicating (“Types of Dementia”). These specific symptoms of dementia, loss of memory, impaired reasoning, and communication difficu... ... middle of paper ... ...activities that their residents engage in. In 2008, a nursing facility in Iowa was found to have improperly reported and documented a case of an elderly male patient engaging in sexual activity with an elderly female patient with Alzheimer’s disease. The state regulators deemed that the woman could not have properly consented due to her illness, and several members of the staff were fired and the facility faced criminal fines (Mehaffey, Trish). When sexual health is openly discussed among patients, their families, facility staff, and physicians, the risk that a dementia patient will become the victim of a sex crime is no greater and is possibly far less, than that of any person living independently. All seniors at risk or diagnosed with dementia that are residents of a nursing facility should have their ability to sexually consent evaluated and regularly monitored.
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