Can a Wife With Dementia Say Yes to Sex?

Can a Wife With Dementia Say Yes to Sex?
By Bryan Gruley 2014-12-09T05:00:01Z

The State of Iowa vs. Henry Rayhons offers a rare look into a complex and thinly explored dilemma that will arise with increasing frequency as the 65-and-over population expands and the number of people with dementia grows. It suggests how ill-equipped nursing homes and law enforcement agencies are to deal with the nuances of dementia, especially when sex is involved. The combination of sex and dementia also puts enormous strains on family relationships, which turned out to be a critical element in the Rayhons case. His four children are supporting him. Two of Donna’s three daughters played a role in Rayhons’ investigation. Through their attorney, Philip Garland, the two declined to be interviewed for this story.

Click the link for the entire report and please post your view.

Devoted Husband.

I couldn’t finish reading this.

Really, Iowa doesn’t have anything better to do than to prosecute a little old man who, I believe did nothing to harm his wife. :frowning:

The OP’s article is from September 2014.

More recent news coverage from the Rayhons trial includes testimony that his wife was not capable of consenting to sex.

Dr. John Brady, who is medical director of Concord Care Center, testified that Donna Rayhons had severe dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. He said any positive reaction to her husband’s affectionate advances could be termed a “primal response,” not a conscious decision to reciprocate.

Defense lawyer Joel Yunek pressed the doctor on the matter. “If the testimony is that Donna is happy to see Henry — hugs, smiles, they hold hands, they talk — would that indicate that she is in fact capable at that point of understanding the affection with Henry?” Yunek asked.

“No,” Brady answered. He likened the situation to the instinctive response of a baby to affection shown by a mother.

The lawyer asked: “Isn’t a primal response a decision that we make?”

No, the doctor said. “I don’t believe an infant makes an informed decision.”


The jury also heard from former nursing home staff nurse Shari Dakin, who recounted how Donna Rayhons’ roommate became distraught after the alleged incident. The roommate indicated Henry Rayhons had done something awful after pulling a curtain shielding his wife’s bed from the roommate’s view. “She said she just hated that man, just hated him,” Dakin said. The roommate told staff members she knew what the sounds were. “I’m not stupid. I know what was going on behind that curtain,” Dakin recalled her saying.

Having sexual activity in a semi-private room in a nursing home with the roommate present shows a stunning lack of sensitivity and discretion on the part of Mr. Rayhons. Whether it rises to the level of a crime, that’s for the jury, but it should have lead to Mrs. Rayons being placed, as she indeed was, in a more protective unit.

They were married. Consent is assumed unless there’s very strong evidence to the contrary. The woman has the right to conjugal relations with her husband in the same circumstances.


Having sexual activity in a semi-private room in a nursing home with the roommate present shows a stunning lack of sensitivity and discretion on the part of Mr. Rayhons. Whether it rises to the level of a crime, that’s for the jury, but it should have lead to Mrs. Rayons being placed, as she indeed was, in a more protective unit.

Lack of discretion, maybe. Crime, no. The daughter got her a roommate to hinder her husband. They also stole his wife away from him while he was at a meeting. If anyone is looking for a monster in this story, look at the daughter’s behavior.

There needs to be a clear legal standard with regards to at least female dementia patients in matters of sex. If a persons relationship with the spouse has become one more like parent/child … marital privileges and rights need to be reevaluated to ensure the rights and dignity of the patient.

I can fully understand the concerns that the wifes daughters were having with his ability to properly care for her and her ability to protect herself from being taken advantage of.

I wish I could unread some of that story.

Feminism will be the death of this country.

So, male dementia patients don’t need to be protected in matters of sex? And how much involvement do we want to give the government in the marital bed? This situation just screams “hard cases make bad law”.

Let’s see, the daughters:

  1. Took her away from him while he was away and put her in a nursing home.
  2. Tried to get HIM to pay for said nursing home.
  3. In the nursing home, forced a roommate on her to deny him privacy.
  4. Didn’t allow him to take her outside the home for funerals, drives, etc.
  5. The woman showed NO signs of rape or physical maltreatment, yet they’re still trying to jail the poor man.

Brunes told nursing home staff that her mother “tolerated the hospital assessment well” and there was “no bruising or tearing of her vaginal skin,” according to a log prepared by a staffer.

Rayhons returned the next morning and sat near an aviary with Donna, holding hands. “Donna was smiling, talking with him about the farm,” the staff notes say. He was unaware that police had taken Donna for a rape test the night before. Staffers told him he was no longer allowed in 12N because he made Donna’s roommate uncomfortable.

“How much more are you going to cut me off from her?” he said.

I’m thinking the daughters had an alternate agenda, and it rhymes with honey.

I knew a man who went to his deathbed begging family members left not to put his wife with severe alzheimers in a nursing home.

My grandfather felt he failed when he was unable to care for his wife with severe dementia and she had to go to a nursing home. This only happened after he collapsed in the bedroom and was given a practical death sentence by hospital staff. He died a week after her.

I agree with the comments on the article. What the daughters did was intrusive and unbelievably cruel.

An important fact that seems to have been missed is that Mrs. Rayhons’ medical plan indicated that she was not capable of giving consent and that this was communicated to Mr. Rayhons. If he found that his wife wanted sex and was capable of consenting to it, he should have told her caregivers so that her medical plan could be modified.

Mr. Rayhons’ actions on that occasion may not rise to a criminal act but no question that they demonstrate absolute selfishness and a lack of respect for his wife as well as her roommate.

I suspect that the prosecution will not be surprised the jury does not convict but felt they needed to prosecute the case in order to make a point. And it is an important point at that.


If your wife wants sex, you need permission from NO ONE to give it to her. That is a marital right, which no doctor, social worker, etc. can take away. You see selfishness, and I see a man giving conjugal love to his ailing wife.

I know this will come as a shock to some people, but there was a time where people kept their sex lives private. I suspect Mr. Rayhons and his wife are members of a generation that finds the modern obsession with publicizing sex lives unusual.

Also, here is a link to MSN’s version of the story:

Sex, Dementia, and a Husband on Trial at Age 78

It is just a fact of life that females are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and especially so in these circumstances. Also, marriage does not protect people from abuse and while the ‘marital bed’ should rightly be respected as private, laws and standards need to be universal so that spouses who aren’t capable of consent have some recourse to the law for protection. Many men do mistakenly believe that marriage gives them the rights to unconsenting intercourse. Sometimes it is the vulnerability of a particular section of society that is responsible for the laws who will protect all members of society.

But there needs to be some very sensitive distinguishing of actual abuse. If a law is so “universal” that it cannot make that distinction, then it is a poor law. Likewise, if the people responsible for enforcing this law cannot use common sense or compassion, and cannot distinguish between a sexual offender taking advantage of an elderly woman and a husband showing love to his ailing wife, there is a huge problem. Here, we have a loving husband and wife who enjoyed each other’s company, including a physical relationship. There is no evidence whatsoever that he forced himself on her or that she didn’t want him touching her–quite the reverse, actually. I quote from the article:

By many accounts, Henry and Donna Rayhons were deeply in love. Both their families embraced their marriage. The case has produced no evidence thus far that the couple’s love faded, that Donna failed to recognize her husband or that she asked that he not touch her, said Rayhons’ son Dale Rayhons, a paramedic and the family’s unofficial spokesman.

There is nothing here to indicate that she needed “protection” from her own husband. Is she no longer allowed to say yes to sexual relations with her husband because her doctor said so or because her daughter was perhaps resentful of the second marriage?

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Perhaps my being a woman, I see the possibility of an unhealthy situation. The couple had only been married 6 years. It said that the wife had been diagnosed with Alzheimer 4 years ago and knowing that this disease comes on for quite a while before the official diagnosis is made… it is possible that the wife was already cognitively below par when they met.

The husband was in a job that didn’t lend itself to the proper care of his wife. He took her to work and left her alone when he had meetings. She wasn’t dressed appropriately when she came to lunch with the daughter. My dad has alzheimers and he is a full time job for Mum. It’s hard enough to see them struggling with this situation despite Mum being in good health and them having the help of their children. I can imagine being the daughters of the wife and seeing this going on with a man who has only been with her for 6 years and is possibly not very discerning (regarding his sexual behaviours that were ultimately demonstrated in the nursing home.)

The daughters concerns were entirely legitimate.

None of us were there, or have gone through what these people have, so my take is that we shouldn’t judge and just pray for a positive outcome for all parties involved.

Where is the evidence that Mrs. Rayhons felt she needed to be protected from her husband or that she thought she was being abused? There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that there was a lack of consent on the part of either party. The story reads to me like a bunch of busybodies got grossed out by the thought of a couple of senior citizens getting jiggy.

Quote from the Money version of the article:

*In other facilities, though, Dr. Frankowski said: “I find staff members saying ‘It’s wrong. Old people don’t do this, they had spouses in the past, they have family member that would be concerned.’ ”

“Sometimes they will say to the resident, ‘Do you really want your daughter to know about this?’ And the staff members do really and truly believe they are doing the right thing.”

These people sound less like Catholics and more like H. L. Mencken Puritans (IOW haunted by the "fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy).

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I’m sorry but the wife’s daughters, nor you, nor the state have the right to make these decisions. This is a sad case of “sticky nose in where it no belongy”. It is NOT the governments role to “fix” every problem, whether it be real or simply perceived.

I too wish I could unread this story, but for apparently different reasons than you.

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