My home care client has asked me to do something I’m not comfortable with – what should I do?

Home carer with elderly person

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. 

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  1. Doesn’t require discussion. Simply don’t offer the service. Don’t do it. Incident report it and keep a copy in case the report is downgraded or goes ‘missing’. Refer it to your Supervisor for investigation and resolution. Bring it up in debriefing if this is ever offered to you. Don’t discuss it on social media even in a de-identified way because it (usually) breaches your employers social media policy and they may refer you to Centrelink so that you can find a job that better matches your skill set.

  2. I am concerned at the response of the provider in this article – it shows a lack understanding of the discomfort or the difficulties that his clinical condition of Parkinson’s pose for this male client (or indeed that any frail elderly man may experience). The carer should be able to obtain a nursing assessment for the client (via the service) in order to exclude any clinical issue (eg hydrocele etc) or to obtain GP advice. If particular personal care or treatment is necessary in relation to the problem, then surely a male carer or a nurse are alternatives.

    1. This is not a job for a carer this man must have family that they can take him to a beautician that specialises in this type of service. Have a bit of respect for the carer she is not there to shave a persons testis she is there as a carer and that is the only roll she should do

  3. I had a male client ask me to dry his private parts and that he doesn’t mind me touching him down there.
    I replied with “no you can wash yourself down there so that means you can dry yourself down there” and “your arms work fine you can reach.
    Next time I went to assist his shower he asked again. I said “no and can you stop asking me that as it makes me feel really uncomfortable.
    I reported it to my coordinator.

  4. I was informed by my Hammondcare community care manager that a male client I was visiting requested to have his full scrotum area shaved before showering. This elder male client lived with his adult daughter and her adult son. I was told the reason given was because of religion. This task was agreed to be done by my employer but we were also told that if we were not comfortable completing this task we could decline and let the daughter know of our decision. I personally did complete this task a few times even though it was very confronting and at ever step was fully supervised and directed by his daughter. Not sure who took care of this prior to our being informed of this new request.

  5. My husband and I are both on level 3 homecare age packages. My husband is 88 and suffers severe Proctitis through radiotherapy in the 90s. I have had to cut hair around the scrotum because it catches on his pull ups. He is incontinent with both bladder and bowel. I along with community nurses have also done steroid retentive enemas for the Proctitis. I also have to insert creams etc in and around bowel and anus. I think if a person doesn’t feel right being asked to do this then they shouldn’t. Help should be addressed. My husband is fortunate that I am over 13 yrs younger and also had nursed my first husband. The carers who come alone to a man must be very careful. My husband is a very moral person and would never ask them to do this for him. When it’s needed two should be present. Never ever do something you are not comfortable with.

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