In their article “A New Way to Think About Dementia and Sex,” Grigorovich, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Dalla Lane School of Public Health, and Kontos, a Senior Scientist with the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute University Health Network point out that “the sexual rights of persons living with dementia are largely ignored within residential care policy, professional training and clinical guidelines.”
Their article, which claims that “a new ethic of dementia care is urgently needed,” points out that current guidelines for lawmakers and physicians do not address the sexualities of persons living with dementia and that guidelines should in fact be crafted to support sexual expression and facilitate sexual rights.
Senior Living Communities, Consent and Capacity
For administrators of senior care communities, the lack of clear legal or medical guidelines around sexual consent in the case of someone with dementia creates a challenge when it comes to protecting seniors in their care, while also supporting their sexual rights.
From a legal perspective, “consent to have sex is similar to informed consent,” Furman says. “Capacity to consent is complicated by the fact that consent may be necessary for different sexual acts and is act specific,” he says.
Steve Morgan, of the Senior Housing Forum, suggests that senior living providers are on the side of caution while acknowledging that “residents have the right to be sexually active if that is their mutual desire.” Morgan suggests that “while it’s hard to talk to families about their parents or grandparents’ sexual activities, families need to be part of the discussion when they have the legal right to be involved.”