An Affair to Remember
June 11, 2008 8:34 AM   Subscribe

She was 82. He was 95. They had dementia. They fell in love. And then they started having sex.
posted by Four-Eyed Girl (94 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
God, that son is a total douche bag.
posted by kbanas at 8:38 AM on June 11, 2008 [20 favorites]


God, that son is a total douche bag.

Yeah...
posted by delmoi at 8:44 AM on June 11, 2008


...whats thats saying when the post is related to the name of the poster...?
posted by H. Roark at 8:46 AM on June 11, 2008


The private-duty nurse who had been tending Bob also had strong feelings about the matter, said the manager: "At first, she thought it was cute they were together, but when it became sexual, she lost her senses" for religious reasons and asked staff members to help keep the two of them apart.
God, that's depressing. I'll just scribble a note here to myself: REMEMBER TO DIE YOUNG.
posted by verb at 8:46 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm seriously reminded of when I was 14 and I liked this girl and her parents did everything in their power to keep the two of us separated. That I can kind of understand, looking back. This on the other hand.

I mean, seriously. There are worse ways to go at 95 than getting a BJ. In fact, I think a BJ is right up there on the top of the list.
posted by kbanas at 8:50 AM on June 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


For God's sake leave them alone. They are already stuck in a nursing home. If he's dirty that is a problem of bad health care. But don't take away the one thing they may get a little pleasure out of. They certainly have nothing else to look forward to. The insanity of our society is unbelievable. (Shakes head and walks away).
posted by ScotchLynx at 8:50 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


but when it became sexual, she lost her senses" for religious reasons and asked staff members to help keep the two of them apart.

Religious reasons? An erection at 95 constitutes a miracle and religious experience as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:51 AM on June 11, 2008 [24 favorites]


I was home visiting my parents in northern California a few months back, and my mom's parents were down from their house in the foothills for a doctor's appointment for my grandfather - and after that to visit with us and make a trip over to CostCo, one of their favorite things to do with some of the grandkids when we're around. My grandfather is in the advanced stages of dementia.

I had been out at a Panera Bread working virtually that morning, but when mom called I hopped in the car and drove over to meet them at the CostCo. I got there just in time to meet them in front of the store and help my grandfather out of the car. A helpful employee noticed this and asked me if we'd like one of those motorized shopping chairs. I said "Yes, he would like that, please."

"But I don't like the chair..." my hunched over grandfather whimpered.

"You don't want the chair?"

"I don't want the chair." He said, but it sounded more like he was repeating what I had said almost as a question.

He ended up taking a grocery cart and padding slowly towards the cafe in the front of the store with me. We ordered a couple hotdogs and sat down to eat while mom and grandma shopped.

"Do you want mustard or ketchup on your hotdog?"

"I want mustard."

"How about relish, do you want some relish?"

"I want mustard."

"OK just mustard then, I'll be right back."

I grabbed his dog to go put the mustard on it but he reached for it with a panicked look like I was taking away his lunch.

"I'm going to put mustard on it for you! I'll be right back with it."

"I want my hot dog."

"Yes but you want mustard on it, right? I have to take it over there to put the mustard on."

"I want my hot dog..." he was on the verge of tears.

I sat back down and watched him eat his plain hot dog, which he wanted mustard on, and I tried not to cry.

Dementia is a horrible disease, that has left my retired neurosurgeon of a grandfather with little more than a child's ability to reason and communicate. I still believe there is a brilliant man trapped inside of there, but he is no longer able to make choices and decisions any better than he was able to at age 3.

The sad fact is that when people suffer from this, you have to begin to care for them, for their own sake, as though they are in fact, again, children, for all intents and purposes. They can't reason for themselves, interpret consequences, and the like. This is a sad story, but until you see the effects of dementia first hand, its hard to understand why they had to do what they did in separating the poor couple.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:52 AM on June 11, 2008 [46 favorites]


"...and it's not even clean!" Holy shit, that son needs to be massaged with a brick to the head.
posted by notsnot at 8:52 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have to agree with allkindsoftime. Having sex with people with not in their right minds....don't we usually call that rape?
posted by DU at 8:55 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


"...and it's not even clean!"

Yeah, what the fuck does that even mean?? Was it covered in grass clippings or wing sauce?

How did the son know his dad's dick wasn't "clean"? Or does this guy need to rub tons of anti-bacterial hand cleaner on everything before he can have germ-ridden sex?
posted by BobFrapples at 8:57 AM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


It seems like if both parties are equally demented, why not let them go at it? I mean, it's not like they're going to get pregnant or anything. Just make sure they're STD tested. What's the harm?

But if one person is demented and the other isn't, then there are obvious consent issues and the two should be kept apart, in my opinion.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:58 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a sad story, but until you see the effects of dementia first hand, its hard to understand why they had to do what they did in separating the poor couple.

Repsectfully and non-rhetorically, do you think that the results of letting the couple in the article stay together would have been worse than the results from separating them? What might have happened that would be worse than the woman in the story isolating herself from everyone around her?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:07 AM on June 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


Thinking about the 'not-clean' bit, old men will sometimes have problems with loose anal muscles - perhaps not clean really did mean not clean.
posted by mosessis at 9:17 AM on June 11, 2008


Not that I at all agree with separating the couple. More power to them. And I still think the son's a dick. But it's possible he wasn't being over squeamish there.
posted by mosessis at 9:18 AM on June 11, 2008


I don't agree with separating this couple, but I don't envy the staff or families that have to make these decisions. How do you determine consent in a person with dementia? What would you say if he thought she was his wife? Or if she thought he was Cary Grant? What if both parties were people, prior to their disease, who wouldn't have dreamed of having a sexual relationship outside of marriage?
posted by moxiedoll at 9:22 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


They can't reason for themselves, interpret consequences, and the like. This is a sad story, but until you see the effects of dementia first hand, its hard to understand why they had to do what they did in separating the poor couple.

Why should there have to be any more reason or consequences for their sex acts in private than for playing the piano or taking meals together? In this case, I really don't see what makes one any more serious than the other, excepting the squeamishness of the man's family.

It'd be one thing if this were about keeping demented people from forming relationships, period, but this is pretty clearly just about the sex, and I don't see what's wrong with that. The age and isolation issues here seem to preclude the usual negative consequences of sex, and nobody in the article gives the impression that anything dangerous or coercive was going on, so I don't think such a severe intervention was necessary. In fact, it seems to me that the negative outcome here happened solely due to the reactions of family and staff, all of whom can reason for themselves and interpret consequences!
posted by vorfeed at 9:23 AM on June 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


Having sex with people with not in their right minds....don't we usually call that rape?

By this line of thinking, can a mentally retarded person never consent to sex? This is the kind of complex issue that should probably be looked at case-by-case. It sounds to me like they knew exactly what acts they were partaking in.
posted by naju at 9:25 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ok I checked, so far I am the only one to do a mood lightening "sounds hot!"
posted by Mastercheddaar at 9:26 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Repsectfully and non-rhetorically, do you think that the results of letting the couple in the article stay together would have been worse than the results from separating them? What might have happened that would be worse than the woman in the story isolating herself from everyone around her?

The manager noted several ways that the social environment of the home was being destroyed by their sexual relationship. Because these weren't just elderly people, but people suffering from dementia, they were unable to negotiate the public/private boundaries on sexual affection that we normally practice. The result was a severely uncomfortable situation for everyone involved: the nurses who supported the relationship were pitted against the nurses who, for whatever reason, did not; the other patients had to put up with some pretty severe PDA ("Bob" was pleasuring "Dorothy" in one of the common rooms, covering her lap with a pillow? That's just a public nuisance, no question.) I'm surprised the manager didn't take action sooner, actually. Probably you take what excitement you can get, in the nursing home biz.

One last thing: It should be noted that the key feature of this case is not the age of "Bob" or "Dorothy", but the diagnosis of dementia. The major issue is whether sufferers of dementia can be properly said to consent to sexual acts; a secondary issue is whether the benefits of the sexual relationship to the two participants outweigh to nuisance it seems to have caused.
posted by voltairemodern at 9:28 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks to advances in health care, it will soon be normal for people to have active sex lives well into their 120s.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:29 AM on June 11, 2008


In fact, it seems to me that the negative outcome here happened solely due to the reactions of family and staff...

No, the article specifically mentions that the other patients were upset by the relationship as well...the manager claimed that this was due to jealousy, but she seemed fairly biased toward the old couple.
posted by voltairemodern at 9:31 AM on June 11, 2008


From my christian perspective: I think they should first marry and then it would be ok. what if there are children?
posted by Postroad at 9:32 AM on June 11, 2008


Would they be legally permitted to marry?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:36 AM on June 11, 2008


I would have enjoyed the Notebook much more if it was like this.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:37 AM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


If my son/daughter ever cock-blocks me, I shall hit them with my cane.
posted by JibberJabber at 9:40 AM on June 11, 2008 [39 favorites]


But seriously, this is story disturbed me. I fear for my old age. I want it to be a happy and exciting place with all the ups and downs that life brings me today. I don't want a homogenized version where it's too whacky to have sex, yet too cruel to stare at the wall, so others decide I must live some bland version in between until I fade.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:40 AM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


The manager noted several ways that the social environment of the home was being destroyed by their sexual relationship.

That's funny, to me it read for all the world like everyone else's reactions to a private matter destroyed the social environment and the relationship both. If no one had bothered them and tried to stop them, they would not have had to sneak around and could have kept to their apartments instead.

In a perfect world I wish for the father to momentarily regain his complete faculties, look at his son in the eye and kick him in the balls as hard as he can.

No, the article specifically mentions that the other patients were upset by the relationship as well...the manager claimed that this was due to jealousy, but she seemed fairly biased toward the old couple.

Yeah, because the best way to ensure happiness for someone in a care facility is to make sure that everyone in the facility is OK with what they do in private.

Unbelievable.
posted by splice at 9:42 AM on June 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


Seriously, what if the guy was just jacking off? Would the fact that his son thinks it's dirty and that other residents might be disturbed by his private behaviour mean that the old man gets a 24h guard just to make sure he's not whacking it? After all, he suffers from dementia, so he doesn't know what he's doing, right?
posted by splice at 9:43 AM on June 11, 2008


Thinking about the 'not-clean' bit, old men will sometimes have problems with loose anal muscles - perhaps not clean really did mean not clean.
posted by mosessis at 9:17 AM on June 11 [+] [!]


Was she fellating his asshole?
posted by basicchannel at 9:47 AM on June 11, 2008


I think what people are missing here is that what they were doing wasn't in private.
posted by empath at 9:47 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


What we need is an old people home run by Burners!
posted by mwhybark at 9:48 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Did anyone else immediately think of "The Henry Miller Dawn Patrol?"
posted by nanojath at 9:51 AM on June 11, 2008


Jesus. There's something to be said for dying (relatively) young.

*orders a rum and coke with his Swiss-mushroom burger*
posted by you just lost the game at 9:53 AM on June 11, 2008


um, hello. But when Bob's son walked in and saw his dad's 82-year-old girlfriend performing oral sex on his 95-year-old father last December, incredulity turned into full-blown panic.

who amongst you would NOT panic if you saw that sight?
posted by msconduct at 9:55 AM on June 11, 2008


The Henry Miller Dawn Patrol. By Philip Jose Farmer.
posted by 445supermag at 9:55 AM on June 11, 2008


I have to agree with allkindsoftime. Having sex with people with not in their right minds....don't we usually call that rape?

From The article...

Even at 95, he'd pop out of his chair and straighten his clothes when she walked into the room. She would sit, and then he would sit. And both of them began taking far greater pride in their appearance; Dorothy went from wearing the same ratty yellow dress all the time to appearing for breakfast every morning in a different outfit, accessorized with pearls and hair combs.

Ypu have to take these things on a case-by-case basis. It sounds like in this case both parties had an awareness and choice in the situation. I've seen the effects of dementia first-hand as well, and it ranges anywhere from slightly goofy, up to heartbreakingly sad.

When it was time to take away my grandfathers car keys, it was tough. His entire life revolved around cars. He'd been an auto mechanic almost as long as cars have existed,and built and owned racecars for 40 years. But eventually his driving became erratic and flat out dangerous, and the decision was made, and he was none too happy about it. Sometimes he would forget, and you'd see him put on his jacket like he was going out, and he'd pretend like he wasn't, but you could tell he was looking for his keys.

So we gave him his keys. His car was gone, but at least he he had the dignity of not having to look for his keys.

And every once in a while, late at night, we'd let him drive the long way around the block to the store, and teased him that if he got pulled over, to floor it, and we'd make a run for it. And even though he had this hair raising habit of driving half in the oncoming lane (i think he knew that if he kept the car on the divider line, he wouldn't hit any parked cars) he did pretty well. Until one day, he was just too tired. And that was that.

He died a couple of years later at 92 years old. The last time I saw him, he was smiling and that's all that should matter.

Keeping the people you care for safe is important, but allowing them their dignity is also equally as important. I can't help but read this article and think that there was a more dignified solution than these people came up with.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:57 AM on June 11, 2008 [34 favorites]


Because these weren't just elderly people, but people suffering from dementia, they were unable to negotiate the public/private boundaries on sexual affection that we normally practice.

We have no way of knowing whether the reason they were blowing each other in public was because of their dementia, or because the staff made it impossible for them to do in private and they didn't want to just roll over when the man said "No, you can't have sex in private". I mean, teenagers will screw on a bus or a pickup truck because they can't find anywhere else to do it, and they don't have dementia.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:58 AM on June 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


> I mean, teenagers will screw on a bus or a pickup truck because they can't find anywhere else to do it, and they don't have dementia.

Teenagers have their own separate form of dementia.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:00 AM on June 11, 2008 [9 favorites]


> who amongst you would NOT panic if you saw that sight?

If this chair's a rockin' don't come knockin'
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:02 AM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


But if one person is demented and the other isn't, then there are obvious consent issues and the two should be kept apart, in my opinion.

Philisophical speculation ahead:

Is that how it works, though?
I mean, if you're willing to let "the demented" have sex with other people, what difference does the partner's capacity make?

Is the argument, "They can't be raping each other"?

I think part of the problem here is that we have made sexual consent into an unassailable philosophical bulwark. Obviously, there must be a bedrock morality that prevents rape and abuse. But consent in the face of diminished faculties seems to be fraught with strange outcomes.

If your IQ is 100, are you able to consent better than those with an IQ of 50? Yes.
If your IQ is 150, are you able to consent better than those with an IQ of 100? Er, no?

So this seems like a threshold issue. You can be balding, but once you're bald, you're bald.

Is it wrong for a sober person to have sex with a very drunk person? Again - Yes.
But Is it wrong for two drunk people to have sex with each other? Can they rape each other? Do two wrongs make a right?

It was widely considered ludicrous when two statutorily under aged partners were each tried for the rape of the other.

Things get even stranger when we start to mix and match:
If we let two drunks have sex, or two children, or two people with lower cognitive function, what about a drunk and a child? No! But why?

Power at first seems to be central. We place children as the least powerful group, usually, but we scale it for age. But mental disability and childhood and alcoholic impairment all seem to be orthogonal impairments. It doesn't seem possible to derive a formula that says 1 year of age = 10 IQ points = .025 BAC. If someone is obliterated on vodka and tonic, and has sex with a 16 year old in an 18 years of majority state, there isn't going to be any kind of weighing of capacity.

If this whole mess could be reduced to power, you'd expect some sort of exchange rate.

I suspect that the whole edifice is fundamentally dysfunctional, and little more than a collection of biases and social constructions that have nothing to do with justice, fairness, or the interests of the partners.

What is an individual to do?
Sex is incredibly important to the human experience.
Society's judgements on sexuality seems dysfunctional.
Society, further, is very harsh in punishing sexual dissent.
Cases like this one will arise that test the incoherent corner cases of any model, especially because sex is just so weird.
posted by Richard Daly at 10:02 AM on June 11, 2008 [16 favorites]


Repsectfully and non-rhetorically, do you think that the results of letting the couple in the article stay together would have been worse than the results from separating them? What might have happened that would be worse than the woman in the story isolating herself from everyone around her?

My point is that they both have the reasoning capabilities of children. Very young children. If you walk in and find your 6 year old daughter boffing the 7 year old neighbor kid, I would hope that you'd take some corrective action. You have to apply the same logic to this situation - the complications and consequences are almost identical. Its just that instead of the issue being "they haven't reached the stage that they can handle this in a safe and secure manner on their own yet," the issue is that they have now left that stage and will not return to it.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:03 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, this story is heartbreaking and troubling. But it's also terribly one sided. I'd love to read a sympathetic story from the childrens' point of view, or from the point of view of one of the caregivers who articulated a principled reason to end the relationship.
posted by Nelson at 10:05 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think what people are missing here is that what they were doing wasn't in private.

The article says that it was in private ("the couple started spending time alone in their apartments during the day"), up until a nurse at the home started keeping them from being alone in a room together: "And because the couple now had to sneak around to be together—for instance, cutting out when they were supposed to be in church—their intimacy became more and more open and problematic." [emphasis mine]

As for the whole causing problems/jealousy thing: again, if you're going to bring up issues of consent and the ability to understand consequences, then you also need to admit that reasoning adults with all their faculties have a lot more control over their reactions than demented elderly people. IMHO, you can't blame this couple for how other people chose to react to their actions; I can think of several ways in which this could have been managed by the families and caregivers without separating the two or making a huge scene out of what they were doing.
posted by vorfeed at 10:08 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I like this. Is it OK to let people fuck when they're both too demented to consent? What if one of them isn't demented? What if they were married before dementia? How demented is too demented to consent? Are you supposed to test them to see if they're capable of consent, or is their age enough (a maximum age for fucking)? And if these folk who are out of their minds still should be encouraged to go at it, shouldn't that go for other people who normally aren't considered capable of consent? What if they're mentally impaired? How dumb is too dumb to fuck? If it's not some absolute age but some kind of psychological test that decides whether folk are capable of consent, what happens when a little kid passes the same test -- give him or her a license to screw?
posted by pracowity at 10:13 AM on June 11, 2008


My point is that they both have the reasoning capabilities of children. Very young children. If you walk in and find your 6 year old daughter boffing the 7 year old neighbor kid, I would hope that you'd take some corrective action.


Disagree. They might have the reasoning capabilities of children, but they *aren't* children. They're adults, who've presumably enjoyed sex throughout the whole of their adult lives.

We don't let kids have sex because of the likelihood that it will be either exploitative, or will cause a degree of emotional trauma resulting in ongoing negative consequences for that child. For these adults, it's unlikely to cause either trauma or negative consequences, and in this particular case, there doesn't appear to be any evidence that their relationship is exploitative.

Personally, I think these miserable kids should have been taking care of their parents at home in order to ensure that they had somewhere to fuck in comfort and privacy. Note to my own Metafilter-reading adult children: this means you too!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:15 AM on June 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


Wow. Great read, in spite of -- or perhaps because of -- the ewwwyness.
posted by cowbellemoo at 10:19 AM on June 11, 2008


Man, all I can say is that everything I've ever read abut dementia leads me to think that my own oncoming-dementia diagnosis will also be my own oncoming-suicide diagnosis, god forbid that day ever comes.

I can't put it any better than Flava Flav did, when he said: "We ain't goin' out like that."
posted by rusty at 10:21 AM on June 11, 2008


It's easy for me to envision a situation with two demented people where one isn't consenting but is also not refusing strongly enough to prevent an assault or to catch the attention of a caregiver. That person needs protection.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:21 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is repellent. That we pack old people off to Death's Waiting Room as a matter of course is horrifying enough in and of itself. That busybodies interfere in their private lives when there is absolutely no evidence of any negative effects on the people involved is mindboggling. I mean.. the nurse not letting them get jiggy for religious reasons?? How about this, you ninny: it's none of your fucking business who is boffing whom as long as no one is being exploited or harmed. Since the only effects on the participants were positive--they were both happier, became more engaged in their day-to-day lives--ther is no rational reason whatsofuckingever to have done this.

I hope the son ends up in a home, a bad one, and is likewise forbidden from taking advantage of one of the few of life's pleasures that is quite democratically available to everyone.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:22 AM on June 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


the other patients had to put up with some pretty severe PDA ("Bob" was pleasuring "Dorothy" in one of the common rooms, covering her lap with a pillow? That's just a public nuisance, no question.)

It's not explicitly stated in the article, but from the flow of things I got the distinct impression that the lobby incident followed on the crackdown. As in, it may not have been any cleverer or well-thought-out of a ruse than the average mefi self-linker manages, but it was an attempt to in fact to hide the thing they were told not to do from the people who were telling them not to. This is not a man gleefully exposing himself on a bus.

One possible reaction to finding that a couple is fooling around too publicly is to work with them to help make sure they're doing it in condoned, supported privacy.

who amongst you would NOT panic if you saw that sight?

I'd panic right now if I walked in on my not-senile, not octogenerian parents getting down. In my panic, I'd get the hell out and mind my own business. Panicking is fine. What you do from there is the question.
posted by cortex at 10:23 AM on June 11, 2008 [7 favorites]


(shoulda previewed)

It's easy for me to envision a situation with two demented people where one isn't consenting but is also not refusing strongly enough to prevent an assault or to catch the attention of a caregiver. That person needs protection.


Sure. But it doesn't look like that was happening here. Which is why these things should be handled case-by-case. And in this case, the manager should have said "What the fuck is wrong with you people?"

Oh, and about walking in on the blowjob.. do people not knock anymore? Wtf.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:23 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I have to say, it seems like the problem here is mainly that the nurse could not keep her judgements to herself and that the son needed to knock. I mean, really? You don't knock when you walk into your dad's room? What kind of a dick are you? My husband's grandmother's home had signs that said, very specifically, to knock. It's just respectful. Probably if he had, the issues would have been much easier to navigate.

And, yes, that sounds simplistic, but if he's with it enough to dress, sing along, go to meals and church in this environment, then he's owed the respect of people knocking before they barge in on him - and he's owed the respect of being treated like an adult. I know, it's harder to negotiate these kinds of things when it's a grown up with a child's mental capacity (on whatever level) but it's unfortunately the case that we're going to have to learn how to negotiate this sort of thing without destroying our parents' lives.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:27 AM on June 11, 2008 [8 favorites]


Oh, and about walking in on the blowjob.. do people not knock anymore? Wtf.

The article may well be biased, but from the sound of it Bob's son wouldn't have accorded his father the courtesy of a knock since he seems to think of him as some kind of overgrown child.
posted by chihiro at 10:29 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Perhaps it has been mentioned somewhere, but one of the interesting side affects of Alzheimer's is heightened sexual interest, along with loss of inhibitions. My mother-in-law, at a certain stage of her dementia, would say "I need to get me a man", something she would never have said pre-dementia, even if she wanted one.
posted by beagle at 10:30 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and about walking in on the blowjob.. do people not knock anymore?

Of course not. Once you've stowed your elderly, demented father away, he exists only for you to assuage your guilt by visiting him once in a while. It follows that the father's sole reason to exist is to be there for this, and as such there is no need to knock when entering his room, as he cannot be doing anything save waiting for you to come in and ask the same old questions.

Him having sex? Why, that's unthinkable. Why won't he think of the children?
posted by splice at 10:30 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dementia isn't an on-off switch--you aren't necessarily suddenly one day "demented" and after that it's all over. I've been taking my mother out once a week ever since the Parkinson's was diagnosed, over fifteen years ago, and even though when I first started she was still the same brilliant, opinionated intellectual she always was and yesterday evening she couldn't retrieve nouns or finish a sentence if she tried, there's still a considerable amount of Mom there. And retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes can be hotbeds of romance. She still perks up when there's a good-looking gentleman around. I bloody hate it when people talk to her as if she were a child.

We don't get to choose much about the ends of our lives, but we still ought to be allowed to be human beings. Treating elderly people as if they were retarded or as if they were very young children just stinks.
posted by Peach at 10:37 AM on June 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


The article may well be biased, but from the sound of it Bob's son wouldn't have accorded his father the courtesy of a knock since he seems to think of him as some kind of overgrown child.

Oh, see, when I was a kid the rule in the house was simple: if a door is closed, you knock. Period. (Well, except for death/blood/fire, I guess). Didn't matter whether it was a kid behind the door or an adult; everyone is entitled to privacy.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:42 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


You know the other thing, besides the consent issue, is that dementia is often marked by disinhibition. Many guys think about sex all the time and want to bang everything with hips but our frontal cortex tells us that's a bad idea to act upon. But a disinhibited 90 year old horn-dog? Just because he thinks of sex all the time, is it fair that he involve other people with all of his sexual impulses?

I am *not* saying all demented people shouldn't be sexually active, just that the issue is interesting and ...tricky. This is a great post.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:43 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]



We don't get to choose much about the ends of our lives, but we still ought to be allowed to be human beings. Treating elderly people as if they were retarded or as if they were very young children just stinks.


Protecting someone against molestation is also treating them like human beings.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:45 AM on June 11, 2008


You know, this story is heartbreaking and troubling. But it's also terribly one sided

I agree. This is clearly an opinion piece rather than a news piece, since the author's take on who is in the wrong and who is in the right is scarcely hidden in the tone of the article. For example, "Dorothy's son-in-law, who is a doctor, suspects Bob's son of fearing for his inheritance.". Seriously, there is no other single possible reason a grown son might think it's a bad idea for his 95-year-old father who is in the grips of dementia to refrain from a sexual relationship? The son may very well be the monster he's portrayed as in the article, but it's hard to use an article that seems intended to make him look like a jerk as definitive proof.
posted by The Gooch at 10:52 AM on June 11, 2008


I just did a PubMed search and I am really surprised at how little medical research there has been done on consensual sexual relationships and dementia. Everything is about treating "inappropriate sexual expression" with medications and other interventions. I have to say, in my practice, I see a lot of older people coupling up and it's awesome. I don't know what's going to happen when we start seeing more and more aging baby boomers who perhaps have judgment that isn't quite normal who are initiating new sexual relationships. There doesn't appear to be much literature to guide the clinician.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:24 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


This article utterly broke my heart. Just broke. As though the elderly, and the demented, and particularly the elderly AND demented don't suffer enough, to see this simple, beautiful thing that made them happy ripped from them makes me just want to weep.
posted by tristeza at 11:34 AM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dementia isn't an on-off switch--you aren't necessarily suddenly one day "demented" and after that it's all over.

What peach said. According to the article, both Bob and Dorothy still lived in private "apartment" suites, rather than in the increasingly more supervised set-up needed as dementia advances. That's only one small step down in independence from the mini-condo with a kitchen in an assisted living center where my 100% competent mother first lived when she became too frail to handle the house on her own. Dorothy still recognizes some of her treasured possessions even if she's fuzzy on why she likes them. She can still play the piano. We get less information about Bob's level of functionality, but she definitely seems perfectly able to make appropriate choices about her sexual behavior. My god, even when my mother moved to a shared room with a roommate and frequent nurse/staff check-ins and her door was always open except while she was changing or sleeping, I would never have entered it without knocking first, just out of common courtesy. Bob's son is an ass.

Boy, that sexual power of attorney dealie is a wise thing to look into. Mine is going to say, "Hands off, motherfucker, no matter how much I may dementedly bat my baby blues at you."
posted by FelliniBlank at 11:46 AM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


This article pretty much tells you everything that wrong with our health care system in general and our treatment of the elderly in particular. Our treatment of the elderly today isn't all that different from how those with TB were treated in the first half of the twentieth century. Old age is a disease we must somehow protect the general population from so pack them away like old clothes and never look at them again. But we forget those that we sequester away are human beings with lives and feelings. We forget, because we make sure they aren't around for us to see, to remind us of what awaits us. If we're unlucky enough to live that long, that is.
posted by tommasz at 11:54 AM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seriously, there is no other single possible reason a grown son might think it's a bad idea for his 95-year-old father who is in the grips of dementia to refrain from a sexual relationship?

Care to suggest a valid, worthwhile one?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:00 PM on June 11, 2008


I worked as a CNA in my early 20s. During my training one of the first things we were taught was that the residents in the nursing home had a right to express their sexuality. These rights included closing their door if they were masturbating, and allowing them to have sexual relationships.

We had a couple that met in the home, fell in love, and were married in the dining room. They were moved into a room together, and spent the rest of their lives loving one another, including having a sexual relationship. Luckily their families would have had no say on their relationship as they were both adults and they have the right in their home to have a relationship.

And, yes the nursing home is their home. They are residents, not patients, and they do live their whole lives in there. It's ridiculous that Bob's son was allowed to take away his Dad's right to happiness in the last of his life. He's 95 years old, how much harm can a loving, sexual relationship do?

I hope in his old age that Bob's son is torn from someone he loves and who loves him, and I hope he is not demented, so he can understand what he did to that poor couple. Love is love, regardless of age. I hope Dorothy and Bob are both as happy as they can be in their final years. I'm only sorry they were torn apart.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:14 PM on June 11, 2008 [9 favorites]


The opening paragraphs sound deliberately overly dramatized for effect and clearly, judging by the assured conviction of posters here wishing ungodly despair on the son it has had the intended effect.

I've watched dozens of people navigate the years between loss of functional autonomy and death, and watched the sons and daughters as well, and I have no better roadmap now than I did then. Every case is completely different but every case is hard as hell and brings out the best and worst and every childhood unresolved issue in everyone. Some of the anecdotes here are enough to bring tears and speak to a beauty and respect that is truly moving. But don't presume for a second you'll be any better until you shepherd your parents through something similar.
posted by docpops at 12:36 PM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


But don't presume for a second you'll be any better until you shepherd your parents through something similar.

Mom? Dad? I'm ok with you gettin' it on in your old age while you're in a nursing home. Hell, I'll even knock before entering your room.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:57 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


If they had enough clarity to remember when and where to meet, or to spruce up their appearance for a tryst, more power to them!

My wife was a CNA, too, and told me that elderly community/retirement homes tend to have high occurrences of STDs. I guess there's less concern about risk and lots of loneliness. If an STD proved to be a potential health risk in a specific case, or if one of the partners clearly had no idea what was happening, then I could see intervening. Otherwise, as long as it's private, leave them alone.

p.s. - Bobfrapples - I'm trying the wing sauce thing.
posted by assoctw at 1:22 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well while the son was a jerk I think he was more worried about inheritance issues than his dad's sexuality. if the couple had married and he died first - not unlikely given the age difference - then all of a sudden this virtual stranger could have control over all of the father's assets. No doubt the son wasn't down with that.
posted by GuyZero at 1:36 PM on June 11, 2008


That's addressed somewhat in the article, GuyZero—including a specific offer of a pre-nup from Dorothy's family. How that all went down is an interesting question, but it sounds like there was at least an attempt to address that.
posted by cortex at 1:53 PM on June 11, 2008


So now to get a living will that states that if I'm senile and widowed, so long as the other person is consenting (which could include a similar living will), I'm allowed to screw them if able. I don't care if they have all their wits about them, or if they're also senile. Heck, I'm straight, but if a guy wants to do me, and future-senile-me is enjoying the moment, present-non-senile me thinks it's great.

on preview: from assoctw's head's up, I guess that I'd have to consider taking myself out of the ederly boffing pool if I had an std that my partner of the moment didn't also already have.

I've only dealt very little with senility through my great-grandma, but I did see the fear and frustration when she'd realize that she'd lost the last X hours of the present. On the same point, wouldn't getting laid and having fun be that much *more* fun because the fear and horror are put at bay? Maybe it's like an acid trip; the bad times can be *really* bad, but the good times can be *really, really* good. Aim for the good.

People have made analogies to kids. My 4 year old *loves* new and different candy. But I don't give him only candy, because he has a future (both for phyisical health, and for mentally learning good nutrition). If he suddenly was diagnosed with something that would kill him in a month, the only non-candy food I'd give him would be the minimum to keep him from feeling ill from eating all of the candy. One asked the question of what if one's 8 year old child was doing the 7 year old neighbor. If they both had a month to live, I personally wouldn't have an issue with it.

It's similar to if someone is in enough pain that the levels of morphine required would addict them. If they're near end of life, WTF does potential addiction matter? They're not going to graduate from the nursing home/hospice and go out and get new jobs. They're not growing up, they're not young and impressionable.
posted by nobeagle at 1:53 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


"...and it's not even clean!"

Well maybe she was fucking cleaning it.
posted by Peter H at 1:57 PM on June 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


The fact that legal issues are involved in this are sickening.
The fact that moral issues are involved in this is sad [and ridiculous].
The fact that elderly people with dementia are also forced to lose intimacy [as well as sexuality] is tragic.
posted by Rashomon at 2:12 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to note that a lot of facilities put their "guests" in diapers. And that might explain the son's reaction. That and a concern that someone might charge his father with rape, since his partner had dementia and he couldn't necessarily even remember consent. Those are probably some of the real issues here.
posted by acoutu at 2:20 PM on June 11, 2008


"And because the couple now had to sneak around to be together—for instance, cutting out when they were supposed to be in church"

I wonder if this was a religious assisted living facility. I find it bizarre that church would be mandatory.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:34 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


acoutu : I don't think rape was an issue as the article mentions they had eyes only for each other, and the children of dorothy *wanted* them to be together has it had such a profound beneficial effect upon her.

Maybe the dad was an ass to the son, and he specifically didn't want him to be happy? They brought up a pre-nupt, so money's not at play. They wanted them to be together, so legal charges aren't at play. The director said he didn't get the impressions that the son was particularly religious. So it seems he was still seeing that "dirty" bj whenever h eyes might close and was searching for anything that might rid his mind of that image, he's jealous his dad was gettin' some, or he doesn't want his dad to be happy.
posted by nobeagle at 2:44 PM on June 11, 2008


Sexuality in many ways comes before reason. It's hardwired into us, by way of hormonal and instinctual means - infatuation and sexual attraction are in more ways than one physiological reactions to another human. With that in mind, it's not hard to see how this, in many ways a purely, instinctual action, could take place. I'm not saying these two people lost some strange sort of contrived propriety that we young ones struggle with, and for that reason were reduced to horny baboons, but rather that they felt their bodies reacting; their hearts beating faster; the sudden urge to come across as a better person than you feel yourself to be; the urge to go that extra mile to impress person X. How on earth can this in any conceivable way be a bad thing? Falling in love (or even, lust) is one of the most exhilarating parts of the human experience.

Infatuation and love are amorphous entities: they can strike at any time, anywhere. That these two people, in the latest stages of their admittedly long lives, could find that again is a godsend and fills me with hope for my own situation in.. oh, say 70 years. The dehumanized treatment of their love affair and dismissal as retarded, childlike creatures without any rights angers me.

These two have spent their entire lives living within "our" modern society. They've made the same choice to abandon some measure of choice and free will for the guarantee of physical security and the opportunity for prosperity and happiness. And now, when their purely monetary or functional service to the whole has been spent, we somehow arrogantly assume that they are beneath us? We owe them our respect; that respect extends to their personal lives. People have a right to personal lives, and in our society, we are all supposedly individuals. People with supposedly unencroachable human rights.

And his son can go fuck himself. That is, unless his twisted sense of propriety would make him stop himself.
posted by flippant at 3:05 PM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Just because he thinks of sex all the time, is it fair that he involve other people with all of his sexual impulses?

A blow job generally requires some cooperation, though.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:00 PM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


So...what if there was an older couple that were already husband and wife, and one had dementia? Would it be wrong for them to have a sexual relationship then? Or, if like these two unmarrieds, they both had dementia...would it be wrong?

I think we often have a tendency to dismiss married couples as having a right to each other's bodies, even into old age, whereas we assume that unmarried couples that meet later in life do not have the same kind of right.

1) On the one hand, it seems to me that two adults in equal states of dementia should have a right to frolic (married or not).

2) And on the other hands, it seems to me that even if a couple is husband and wife, if one is demented and the other is not, a sexual relationship is fraught with moral issues.

Marriage does not mean consensual sex for life. It means a reliable life-partner who may or may not consent each and every time things "come up."
posted by whimsicalnymph at 4:44 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow ... and I was expecting this to be about John McCain!
posted by scblackman at 6:18 PM on June 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am uncomfortable with the idea that reduced mental function may have caused one or both of the people to act contrary to previous conviction. One of the most pernicious (and sometimes least obvious) effects of dementia is the loss of the analysis of consequence, and such decisions must be laboriously worked through each time they are made, rather than relying on a "rule of conduct," as it were. I'm by no means a defender of religion, but personal convictions (of either theological or philosophical nature) rely on intellect, and going bats in my old age such that I would violate philosophical convictions and behave in a way I wouldn't have when I was of sound mind bothers me.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:41 PM on June 11, 2008


going bats in my old age such that I would violate philosophical convictions and behave in a way I wouldn't have when I was of sound mind bothers me.

Huh, not me. Other than if I became a homicidal maniac or something, but then I would just need to be kept away from guns and knives.

I know for the sufferers dementia is usually more scary than fun, but I am not going to worry too much about whether I will be able to maintain ideological consistency when I've gone gaga. Anymore than I worry that I do so when I dream. In both cases, I'm not in control, and therefore, not responsible. Hopefully, I will be a nice demented old lady and not a mean one, but you can never tell, and I, of all people, won't care. And yeah, if I want to get it on with a nice old gentleman who isn't my husband, let me do so, provided both of us are willing. What else do we have to look forward to, bedpans and Wheel of Fortune?
posted by emjaybee at 7:29 PM on June 11, 2008


Personally I'm holding out for "dignified death, at the time of my choosing if necessary."
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:40 PM on June 11, 2008


Well, sure, but "getting my freak on" is a close second.
posted by cortex at 7:44 PM on June 11, 2008


How Justice Sandra Day O'Connor handled her husband's post-dementia relationship.
posted by dhartung at 7:55 PM on June 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


On that note, I'm surprised no one has mentioned the movie 'Away From Her' based on the story 'The Bear Came Over The Mountain' by Alice Monroe. A wife's "infidelity" after contract Alzheimer's is the central plot (but there is more).
posted by GuyZero at 8:55 PM on June 11, 2008


Marriage does not mean consensual sex for life. It means a reliable life-partner who may or may not consent each and every time things "come up."

When did you get to write the definition of what marriage means?

While it may mean that for you and yours, for other people, marriage is based on trust, and that often means that unless consent to something is explicitly withdrawn, then there's a ongoing standing order that it's all good.

It's like the dork somewhere upthread who suggests that sex when one partner is drunk is always wrong. Well, perhaps somebody ought to tell my wife, because she's been taking advantage of me when I'm rat-arsed for over twenty-five years now.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:07 AM on June 12, 2008


In fact, consider this my official Living Will.

I, Peter McDermott, being of sound mind and body at this present moment, do hereby state for the record that in the event of my suffering Alzheimers, Dementia, Brain Tumours or any other brain disease that appears to render me incapable of providing full and informed consent, *any* woman who wants to administer a blow job to my person has my full permission to do so.

Also: to all those women who've wanted to 'experiment' with various forms of anal play -- pegging, love beads, etc. -- now's your chance, girls! This is the only permission you're ever going to get from me, so if you've got the energy, I've got the sphincter!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:38 AM on June 12, 2008


Doesn't anyone knock anymore?
posted by sophist at 3:44 AM on June 12, 2008


I mean, seriously. There are worse ways to go at 95 than getting a BJ. In fact, I think a BJ is right up there on the top of the list.

Are you kidding? If that's the way you die, St. Peter will probably shake your hand at the Pearly Gates and say, "Come right on in, you lucky bastard!"
posted by jonp72 at 6:41 AM on June 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Everyone deserves to love, and be loved. No matter how old they are. They obviously knew, subconsciously, that they were in love; the poor lady lost weight when they were separated.

Dopamine and oxytocin are wonderful chemicals to have. How dare anyone deny old people the right to feel good, ESPECIALLY using the chemicals in the human body!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:30 PM on June 12, 2008


Wow ... and I was expecting this to be about John McCain!

Actually, this is from the sidebar: McCain's Brain. How Fast do 72 year-old brains deteriorate?

Apparently Slate thought that readers of this story would be interested in the question.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:47 PM on June 13, 2008


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