Old Farts On Viagra

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Old Farts on Viagra

By Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, R.N., B.S.N., Attorney,

This may sound like a flippant title, but the subject can be a serious one. What happens when an elderly male, who was formerly not sexually active, gets himself a prescription for Viagra, or an equivalent, and begins to behave in ways some consider inappropriate?

On one hand, the right to self-expression is fundamental to our Bill of Rights. The same is true for freedom of association. We have basic civil rights which are guaranteed in our free society. On the other hand, there are instances in which the rights of the individual must be viewed in the context of how they affect others. For instance, freedom of expression does not include “flashing”, or running unclothed down Main Street. What then, for the elder who is now empowered to be sexual with the advances in medicine that created drugs like Viagra?

The answer depends on a lot of things, the first of which is the capacity of the elder to make appropriate decisions. With age may come infirmities of both mind and body. While medication may improve sexual performance, it cannot improve a loss of judgment about appropriate sexual conduct. When an elderly male is “feeling frisky”, it may be a perfectly natural desire that does not disappear with aging, it may be loss of normal inhibition that can accompany dementia, and it may be some combination of factors which include both normal and inappropriate conduct.

The capacity to pursue a sexual encounter on the part of the male in question must be viewed in the context of the ability and judgment of the pursued female to give consent. With elders who have dementia, or other cognitive impairment, the capacity to give consent can be diminished enough that understanding one’s choices and the consequences of such choices is no longer possible.

Problematically, there is no clear line of demarcation between the point at which the capacity to give consent to sexual behavior still exists, and the point at which such capacity is lost. Impaired cognitive function tends to happen by degrees. We know of no test or objective way to measure such capacity. We can’t give a math problem to an impaired elder, for example, have her complete it correctly, and conclude anything at all about the capacity to give consent to sexual behavior.

Then what about the pursued female interacting with the pursuer, the “old guy on Viagra”? If she’s not totally confused, not completely unaware, and is able to express herself and her interest, perhaps a little romance is good for one’s mental health, even with early dementia. It may be a source of enjoyment at any age, after all.

If an adult child of the elder who is interested in sexual behavior is at all involved, this is undoubtedly a difficult subject to discuss. On the one hand, everyone has a right to privacy. On the other, you may ask yourself, “Is he able to control his behavior? Is he able to accept cues from a female of her interest or lack of it? Is his behavior apparently appropriate, or is it rude or intrusive?”

Finding answers to these questions, of course depends on one’s ability to observe an elder who is expressing sexual interest to women in a controlled setting. For some elders living independently, there may be no opportunity for such close observation. The subject of an older man’s sexual approaches to women may only come to the notice of others when there is a problem of unwanted attention, or complaints about the male’s conduct.

Senior facilities have a legal duty to protect elder women who are being harassed or inappropriately approached by other male residents. Sexual assault and even rape can occur among elders, and such incidents are traumatic for any woman, particularly if the woman is unable to physically resist or to express her refusal in words due to cognitive or other physical impairment.

With independent elders living on their own, there may be no opportunity to be involved at all until or unless a problem is brought to the attention of family. This is an area with no easy answers and no clear definitions of when the ability to make good judgments is lost.

If your aging loved one is living independently, and appears to be of reasonable judgment about his conduct, the adult children may not be able to approach the elder at all, regardless of whether one approves of what Dad is up to, or not.

If your loved one’s sexual behavior is causing you concern, the first step is to contact his/her physician. Although the elder may or may not have given you permission to talk to the doctor, you can voice your worries, even if the doctor is unable to tell you any information. It will then be up to the physician to address the issue with his or her patient at the next visit.

Ó2009, Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, R.N., B.S.N., Attorney, AgingParents.com

Find answers to some of your most pressing problems with elders in The Boomer’s Guide to Aging Parents, at AgingParents.com.

 

 

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 09 March 2010 15:36 )

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