Nursing home rape case raises consent concerns for dementia patients

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The case of a former Iowa lawmaker accused of raping his wife in a nursing home is throwing a spotlight on a little-discussed concern for the families of dementia patients.

Henry Rayhons is charged with sexually assaulting his wife, Donna Lou Rayhons, according to The Mason City Global Gazette.

Donna Lou had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was suffering from symptoms of dementia. After arriving at the nursing home, staff there told Henry that his wife was no longer mentally capable of consenting to sexual relations.

The Des Moines Register reported that a August 2014 criminal complaint filed by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said Rayhons admitted to sexual activity with his wife.

Prosecutors say that Rayhons ignored that message in May of last year.

In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Henry’s son, Dale Rayhons, said  that the charge was based on a report by Donna Rayhons’ roommate, who told nursing home staff about unclear sounds coming from behind a closed curtain.

The criminal complaint  breaks down what investigators say happened.

According to the complaint, Henry Rayhons went into his wife’s room on May 23, 2014, and pulled the curtain closed.

Also in the complaint, a statement from Donna Rayhon’s roommate telling authorities that she heard noises indicating Henry Rayhons was having sex with Donna Rayhons.

Surveillance video showed Henry Rayhons leaving his wife’s room and discarding undergarments into a laundry bag, the complaint said.

The visit lasted 30 minutes, according to surveillance video.

Donna Lou Rayhons died in August 2014.

Henry Rayhons was charged days later.

His family released a statement after he was charged.

In it, they said, “We all have relatives in nursing homes, and none of us would say we loved them less because of their location. And Donna’s location did not change our Dad’s love for Donna nor her love for him. It did not change their marriage relationship. And so he continued to have contact with his spouse in the nursing home; who among us would not?”

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