My dad is in a New York state nursing facility, he has refused his showers.

We live out of state, my husband went up to western New York to visit his father who has been in a nursing home for about two months for rehab. He went to the nurse and asked why his father smells so strongly of body odor and urine. She said that he has been refusing his showers, and in New York state they have the right to refuse. Would this not be a health issue after awhile?


Senior Advisor

In most states the Patient Bill of Rights suggests that you have the right to refuse treatment and be told what effect this may have on your health .  As long as you're cognitiv e .  I'll let a lawyer suggest an approach if they are not.  Did your husband speak to his dad about this matter?  Had dad... (more)

In most states the Patient Bill of Rights suggests that you have the right to refuse treatment and be told what effect this may have on your health.  As long as you're cognitive.  I'll let a lawyer suggest an approach if they are not.  Did your husband speak to his dad about this matter?  Had dad given a reason for not wanting to be cleaned up?  A lot of times people feel uncomfortable with someone else bathing them.  Another reason is that they are afraid of loosing their independence.  I'm not sure how the facility is approaching the subject or how much effort is being placed on the subject.  Have they tried both type of nurses (male or female)?  There are other alternatives that your husband can try to get dad bathed.  

I would recommend talking to his Primary Doctor that he knows well.  Sometimes talking to his doctor and alerting them of the situation, they can talk to him and inform him of the issues that can come from not keeping clean.  There usually is trust or a bond there.  Can dad clean himself up (sponge bath)?  You could find a local home care company that you could hire to come in try to bath him.  Check with the facility first to see if they allow outside hired help in.  They might have special requirements for insurance reasons.  

Another suggestion is talking to a Patient Representative — The patient representative is a member of the hospital staff who serves as a link between the patient, family, physicians and other hospital staff. The patient representative should be available to answer questions about hospital procedures, help with special needs or concerns and help solve problems. The patient representative is familiar with all hospital services and will assist you. There shouldn't be a charge for services rendered by the patient representative.  

I'm not sure how much longer dad has in rehab, but you could always look into another facility.  I don't recommend this only if there a serious health concern.  This might not be good for dad.  He might just refuse to bath there too.  

Only as a last resort, if nothing is working and there is a health concern, you may contact the New York State Department of Health by mail or phone.  You may call the toll-free number 1-888-201-4563 (Nursing Home Patient Care Complaints) or you may write them 

send it to:

New York State Department of Health

Centralized Hospital Intake Program

Mailstop: CA/DCS

Empire State Plaza

Albany, NY 12237

I hope everything works out.  

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Private Fiduciary, Trustee,Conservator, Financial Advisor

This is called the right of self determination.  Health care facilities  must respect the rights of people, even when we disagree.  No one ever died for lack of bathing!  As long as he is no danger to himself or others, that's the way it is.

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Estate Planning Attorney

I cannot comment about if there is a specific New York law, but I agree that this is a health issue.  Here are a few things to consider: 1. Does your husband have a valid Advance Healthcare Directive for his father? If so, review what sorts of powers that document gives him.  2. Consider speaking to... (more)

I cannot comment about if there is a specific New York law, but I agree that this is a health issue. 

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Does your husband have a valid Advance Healthcare Directive for his father? If so, review what sorts of powers that document gives him. 

2. Consider speaking to the social worker at the facility regarding this issue.

3. Consider speaking to a geriatric care manager who can counsel regarding ways to approach your father in law regarding this issue.

It would certainly be very difficult to force your father in law to shower. Maybe they staff would give him a sponge bath instead. Many seniors have a fear of showering because they are concerned about falling. Perhaps your husband can address this fear with his father. 

We at Care Giving Answers strive to provide helpful and relevant information to senior citizens and their families and... (more)We at Care Giving Answers strive to provide helpful and relevant information to senior citizens and their families and loved ones. The material provided through our site is made available for informational purposes only. In no way should users of our site rely or act upon any information provided herein without seeking appropriate professional advice (medical, legal or financial). Users should independently verify the accuracy, completeness and relevance for their specific purposes. The information provided through our site is not intended to constitute professional advice and in no way forms or constitutes a professional-client relationship of any kind.