Intimacy and the Elderly

by Andrew H. Hook, Esq. and Maureen E. Hook, Ph.D.

August 30, 2013

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This topic is one of those things that probably did not have to be considered 20-30 years ago, but with increased life spans and people being cared for in their later years in facilities, it one that is increasingly being faced by caregivers. In some cases, the intimacy may include sexual relations between spouses, or it can even be between residents at a facility. Now one may think that sexual intimacy between spouses is not a problem, but if one of the people in the couple is in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s, then even that can cause problems. Does the individual with advanced Alzheimer’s truly have the capacity to consent to sex? These are the questions facing facilities today. The law is uncertain and developing on the subject. There are currently no laws dealing with sexual relations in assisted living facilities.
Some facilities have taken the position that, if the person no longer can truly give informed consent, then sexual relations for that individual should not be allowed–be it with a spouse or another resident. For example, there was a case in Coralville, Iowa involving a facility named Windmill Manor that resulted in a 3 1/2 -year court case. 2 residents, both with dementia and who were not each other’s spouses, were found having sex. The administrator of the facility and the director of nursing were both fired. The man’s family removed him from the facility, and had to travel several hours to the new one, while Windmill Manor was minutes away. The woman continued to reside at Windmill Manor. However, while the relationship was ongoing, the woman seemed calmer and happier.
A facility which has taken a different approach is the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, NY. The president and CEO, Dan Reingold, feels that romantic relationships should be encouraged at facilities. His feeling is that nothing can make anyone feel as good as waking up in the morning and having the urge to see a boyfriend or girlfriend. The presumption at his facility is that, no matter the lack of capacity, the presumption is that the individual can consent. Then they watch and see how the relationship develops. Do the individuals seem comfortable with what’s happening? They inform the families. If one’s family outright objects, they will respect those wishes. However, some families give an OK. Sandra Day O’Connor, the former Supreme Court Justice, was herself in such a situation. While her husband had dementia and resided in a facility, he started acting amorous toward another female resident. He obviously wasn’t trying to hurt his wife, but Justice O’Connor saw that the relationship made him happy, and she did not interfere. He no longer was the person whom she had married, and she gave him permission to adjust to his new life in the way which seemed good for him.
So the best advice at this time that can be given is–know the policy of the facility one is contemplating placing your loved one in. Also, be watchful. Ask who your relative is spending time with. Are they holding hands with someone of the opposite sex and seeking them out in the social activities that the facility provides? That would be a good indication that things could progress further. Then, the family can make an informed decision how they would like things handled. The goal, in the final analysis, is that the individual be empowered to make their own decisions for as long as possible. Dementia doesn’t have to mean an end to love and intimacy. It just may mean that how that love and emotions are expressed may change as the individual progresses with the disease.
(Intimacy and dementia: is there a time to stop having sex? Kennard, C. http://www.healthcentral.com/alzheimers/c/57548/24937/time-stop-sex)  (from the NPR interview on July 22, 2013 at 3 PM between Bryan Gruley, reporter-at-large for Bloomberg News and Melissa Block of NPR “Can Elderly Patients With Dementia Consent To Sex?”) (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=204580868)

ask kitkat logoWhat is an Olinguito?

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what is an olinguito?
Kit Kat: Well, would you believe that, in this day and age, a totally new species of mammal has been discovered in Ecuador in the Andean cloud forests? Well it has! The announcement was made public on August 15, 2013. Scientists at the Smithsonian Zoo discovered some old bones in a drawer about 10 years ago which were similar to those of an olingo, but they had some distinct differences. Then in 2006, some other researchers spotted an animal that they thought had not been seen before. It was similar to the olingo, with a smaller head, larger teeth, a shorter nose, and redder, thick fur. It took another seven years to determine that it was a separate species. We can thank Kristopher Helgen, Curator of Mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of History for the discovery. Some say the olinguito resembles a cross between a domestic cat and a teddy bear. Others say it resembles a raccoon without the stripes.
The olinguito is technically classified as a carnivore, but lately it can also be classified as a frugivore, meaning that it eats a lot of figs and other tree fruit. It also is nocturnal which may explain, in part, why it took so long to be found. Isn’t life wonderful? There just is no end to the things that keep getting discovered! We welcome our new friends to our family of animals!

(http://wwwnbcnews.com/science/cutest-new-animal-discoverd-its-olinguito-6C10925572) (August 15, 2013)

Upcoming Events

  • Hook Law Center will be presenting at an Advanced Elder Law Seminar sponsored by Virginia Continuing Legal Education at The Place at Innsbrook, 4100 Cox Rd., Glen Allen, VA on September 11, 2013.
  • Hook Law Center will be presenting a seminar on Providing for Pets in Estate Plans at Care-A-Lot Pet Supply, 5457 Indian River Road, Virginia Beach, VA on September 19, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.  This event, hosted by the Norfolk SPCA and Care-A-Lot Pet Supply, is free and open to the public.
  • Hook Law Center proudly presents “Shred With A Purpose” at our Virginia Beach office location, 295 Bendix Road, Suite 170, Virginia Beach, VA  23452 on September 21, 2013 from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.  This event is free and open to the public.  Donations will be accepted during this event for the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  More information on this event follows.
  • Hook Law Center will be presenting a seminar on Guardianships, AMDs and Long-Term Care Planning at Compassionate Care Hospice, 920 Ventures Way, Suite 6, Chesapeake, Virginia on October 2, 2013 from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Hook Law Center is participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s  on October 13, 2013 to raise funds and awareness. We  know Team Hook Law Center can make a difference with your support! It’s easy to give online by clicking here.  If you would like to join Team  Hook Law Center, raise funds and walk with us, please email Jennifer Woods-Pagano, CECC, our team captain, at pagano@hooklawcenter.com for more information.
  • Hook Law Center will be presenting on Estate and Long-Term Care Planning at the Medicare Health Fair at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, 1000 19th Street, Virginia Beach, VA on November 16,  2013.  This event, hosted by Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, is free and open to the public.
  • Hook Law Center will be presenting a webinar on the Affordable Care Act and Elder Law and Special Needs Planning on December 4, 2013. This webinar will be hosted by Interactive Legal.
  • Hook Law Center will be presenting a live webinar on POAs, AMDs and the Ethics of It All in Charlottesville, VA on April 10, 2014. This webinar will be hosted by Virginia Continuing Legal Education.

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