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Are there regulations about male staff helping female residents?

In my mom’s new assisted living situation there are MALE attendants that assist in bathing residents. Not wanting to be discriminatory, but my mom is embarrassed with these men helping her and has been finding excuses to not let them in at night to oversee her showering. She is physically intimidated by their presence when she is naked and is now withdrawing from until now has been part of her routine when done by female care staff.

Are there laws governing the right to privacy when disrobed, relative to male versus female care staff? Does a resident have any rights to dictate the gender of their attendant? We have the right to pick a doctor based on our gender of preference, but in an emergency situation—whoever is on call is of greater importance. I understand that when it is life or death urgency, all modesty is secondary to saving your life. However, the gender of a bathing attendant in an assisted living residence or Alzheimer’s unit is routine. If most of your residents are women and they bathe at night, is there a healthcare protocol whereby they are to be attended by same-sex gender? Understandably, male attendants are vital to help with those more infirm and weightier residents into and out of the shower, but this is a small subset of those currently residing there. Any advice???

Status: Open    Oct 30, 2015 - 09:23 AM


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Expert Answers

Nov 07, 2015 - 03:11 PM

To the best of my knowledge there are no laws dictating the gender of the care partner who provides bathing assistance at assisted living. I can't speak to nursing homes (though I believe it would be the same). That being said, every state has an "Ombudsman" program and a mandatory compliance with Resident Rights. Residents, even those with dementia, have the right to deny care and may never be forced into a situation without their consent. So, in a way, you are correct that your mom has the right to deny bathing services from a male care partner, be it an indirect one.

You can see more about the Missouri Resident Rights here:

Contact your state Ombudsman for your state's specific Resident Rights regulations. They will be able to thoroughly answer your questions regarding specific laws and regulations in your state.

From my perspective, some of the very very best care partners in senior living are males. Not every single male, but many. Caregiving is field that is dominated largely by females and it (in my experience) takes a very special, caring male personality to provide personal care. Were I in your situation, I would consider the specific person, their communication, their experience, their reviews and their care of other residents into account before jumping to a conclusion only because they are male.

Ultimately, you should meet with the Director of Nursing to voice your concerns. You have the right to communication, free and transparent, and you have the right to move your mom if the community she is at doesn't meet your expectations.


Nov 16, 2015 - 09:24 AM

It is understandable that your mom may feel uncomfortable with a male attendant and has every right to request that she has a female attendant for her showers. Most places will make every effort to accommodate her wishes. However, they may not always be able to meet her wishes, all of the time. Facilities have an attendant supervisor available in case your mother has any concerns. I would expect that the supervisor makes on site visits and is in contact with your mother.

As a former nursing instructor, I can assure you that all healthcare workers are educated to always provide privacy to all patient/residents, whether they are male or female. When we began having an increase of men in nursing, we were aware that some people, especially older women, would be resistant to being cared for by a man. To our surprise, many patients preferred the men not only because they felt more secure when they are assisting them with ambulation, but also they found that the men were more careful to provide privacy when assisting a female resident.

There are not any laws requiring ’same sex’ attendants. However, licensing and accrediting agencies always check to ensure that the facility insures the rights of the residents to privacy and respect. Additionally, the ombudsman program in each state is available to ensure resident rights,

It might help reassure your mother, if you or another family member can stop in from time to time at her shower time to make sure that she is provided the proper assistance and respect. You also might want to make contact with the attendant supervisor, so that the supervisor sees you as a contact for your mother, if there is a concern.

I wish you luck in helping your mother obtain the best assistance for her daily needs, without compromising her comfort.


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By linda_coe on Jun 18, 2016 - 09:26 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

I agree with the comments made by rwillis above. For years, the female dominated nursing profession (and I was one of them) cared for men and there was no question about it since there were few, if any, male nurses to provide care. My husband was in assisted living facilities and nursing homes until his recent death and even though he was a very private person, he never minded if a female attendant cared for him. I know, however, that if a patient did prefer a caregiver of the same sex, the CNAs would trade patients to accommodate those requests.

By happycampers5 on Dec 05, 2016 - 09:38 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

I don't understand why a woman can't be in the room also. My male doctor will not examine my personal bad parts without a female nurse attendant. Shouldn't my mother have the same respect in a nursing home?

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Nov 15, 2015 - 08:40 AM

My husband, with dementia, was in assisted living with hospice care. Even with dementia he was asked if he would be more comfortable with a male assisting him in the shower and he said he nodded. Since males were available they requested one to assist and it solved the problem nicely.

Nov 15, 2015 - 08:48 AM

For how many years were male patients bathed and helped with bowel movements by female aides? My wife has Alzheimer's and both the male and female aides are professional and caring.

Nov 15, 2015 - 09:29 AM

I, a female of 76 years, am happy to have help showering from a male assistant. They are stronger than most of the women assistants and make entering and getting out of the shower safer. My favorite is in nursing school and I think he will make a great nurse! I have had male nurses in at least four different hospitals and have had no discomfort with their help in any way--from bedpans to catheters to bathing!

Nov 15, 2015 - 11:20 AM

I don't think this should be a matter of law or regulation, but the facility should think of it as a matter of reputation and customer relations.
As a matter of simple courtesy, your mom, in any case but especially being of an older generation, should have been asked if she was OK with assistance from a male aide, and a particular male at that, not just whatever guy happens to be present, and it should have been emphasized that she could say No, she was not comfortable.
My MIL in assisted living, was asked by the new aide, Roy. She thought about it and consented. He was a great guy (as is obvious by his thinking to ask) and he was sad when the time came to move her to skilled nursing, but he picked up her lift chair by himself and carried it to our car!
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By pakozy57 on Dec 31, 2016 - 10:10 AM | Like (0)  |  Report

I think her preference for a female while bathing should be honored whenever possible. And that meeans 90% of the time. Patients already know that you have to leave your dignity at the door in hospitals, but in a long term situation, should have a right to choose. If she is withdrawing from people, this is as hazardous to her health as being unsupervised. I wouldn't go to the laws to help her, but as high up in management as possible using letters and inperson visits to press your point. Most will accommodate her wishes. Men seldom have the same issue because they are used to having women care for them from their moms to wives. If her residence refuses to help, maybe her care is lacking in other ways. Older people don't like to rock the boat. They're afraid of retaliation. I speak from experience. Help her out so she doesn't continue to feel uncomfortable. She is worth it.

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