Sex, Cars, Money, And Dementia

Check this out. What you will see is a very thought-provoking article by a physician whose professional work centers on the field of bioethics. Seems that a husband visited his wife, suffering from dementia, in a nursing home. While he was there, they had sex, an act for which he later got arrested. Yes, arrested! The blog post tells the whole tragic story. It also raises a major question. When it comes to dementia, what is the appropriate balance of freedom versus controlled safety in areas like sex, money, and driving an automobile? Further thought reveals that this is only a special case of the question as to how much should society make people do health-related things that are “for their own good,” versus value individual autonomy.

Bottom Line. Although this post not surprisingly does not provide the “final answer” for these huge and increasingly important questions, it does provide good elements of practical guidance. Like, nursing homes should have published policies and procedures for dealing with sex, so as to avoid the debacle described above. And banks can institute procedures that check for unusual banking behavior that might indicate that a patient with dementia is being scammed.

All little steps, but increasingly important and practical ones in a population that is aging and needs to wrestle more and more with such thorny issues. 

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