It takes a special type of person to perform these roles. They must be able to build relationships with their clients, and be empathetic to their situation. It helps to be physically strong and capable, and they must be knowledgeable about the tasks they have to perform.
Home care workers must also be assertive enough to be clear about the boundaries of their role with clients. This necessity became clear to us at HelloCare when a member of our Aged Care Worker Support Group on Facebook wrote about an unusual request she received, and asked if it was appropriate for her to perform the task her client was asking.
The home care worker was with her client who had advanced Parkinson’s disease. She usually showered him in his wheelchair, and was also sometimes asked to shave his beard. Both of these tasks she performed happily.
However, one day the client asked her to shave the pubic hair around his scrotum.
Never afraid to shy away from the difficult questions, HelloCare decided to look into the matter.
Members of the support group responded strongly – there were more than 130 comments on the post. Unsurprisingly, most members recommended the carer take a cautious approach.
“No way!” a member commented.Featured Text
Several noted the carer should document the client’s request in her progress notes to ensure she was being transparent, and in case that she was blamed for any wrongdoing.
“Protect yourself,” another member cautioned. Some said write up an incident report about the request.
A few revealed they had, in fact, performed this very task for clients. They said sometimes pubic hair can be hot, irritating or itchy for men – particularly if they are incontinent – and performing this task was in line with person-centred care.
They suggested a male carer could perform the duty, or a second carer could be present if she decided it was a task she was going to perform.
Some said working in aged care involves a lot of uncomfortable tasks, and this potentially could be one of them. They shared stories of being asked to apply Sudocrem to the anus and clients masterbating in the shower while the carer waited patiently by.
Mark McBriarty, Executive Director at My Care Solution, told HelloCare being asked to cut a client’s pubic hair is “way outside” the scope of their home care workers.
He said My Care Solution’s carers can ring a central support office at any time of the day or night for advice and support on any matter, not only to provide clarity and confirmation, but for the carer’s safety and security.
While McBriarty said the task was not one their carers would perform, My Care Solution would be happy to make an appointment for the client with a suitable beautician or hair removal service to ensure he was happy and comfortable, and his needs were being met.
Over time, home care workers build a relationship with their regular clients. Sometimes carers and care recipients become close, sometimes the connection remains purely professional: every relationship is different. Caring involves intimate tasks, and sometimes the boundaries of what is appropriate might not be clear, and it’s not always easy to say no when a new request is put forward.
When something doesn’t feel right, it’s important home care workers have support they can call upon to find a way to ensure the client is happy, but more importantly to ensure the carer is comfortable in their role, not being coerced into doing something they’d prefer not to, and that they are safe.
Are you or someone you know a home carer that has been faced with an uncomfortable request like this from a client? Share your experience below.