Sex

Aging Boomers Create Concerns About Consent for Sexually Active Elders With Dementia

Try to get that image out of your mind

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At 8:30 p.m. on Christmas Day 2009, nurse Tiffany Gourley was called to a room at the Windmill Manor nursing home in Coralville, Iowa. She found a 78-year-old male resident who had just had intercourse with an 87-year-old woman. The man, a former college professor, was divorced. The woman, a retired secretary, was married. Both had dementia.

What followed illustrates one of the most complex and unexamined issues facing elderly care facilities as the Baby Boom generation enters old age: How to determine if residents with dementia have the mental capacity to consent to sex.

The Windmill Manor incident and its lengthy aftermath also show that nursing homes, regulators and families are not prepared to deal with that question.