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Caregiver Screening Helps Protect Seniors from Abuse

Financial, emotional, physical elder abuse -- sadly, it’s happening with alarming frequency. Recently, there have been a growing number of reports of caregivers using their position to swindle older people out of their life savings, and inflict emotional and physical pain on those they’re supposed to help.

Paid home care aides can be contracted by Medicaid or through private agencies, or they can be hired directly by an individual or family through an advertisement or other media venue. There are 900,000 such employees earning an average of $10.18 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Criminal background checks, drug testing, thorough employment screenings and reference checks can help prevent hiring home care aides who seek to victimize the elderly.

Screening Standards Not Consistent
Most caregivers who assist older people in their homes have no ill intentions, according to Naomi Karp, strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute. “We’re not trying to make this sound like there are a lot of bad apples out there, but we don’t want people to have a false sense of security either.”

Those few troublemakers are the reason why Medicaid requires states to set screening standards, though there is no federal requirement for background checks. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia require varying levels of background checks as part of their screening processes. Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota and Nevada do not. State law regulates private home care and home health care agencies, and each agency has its own screening method. When people hire privately, they are personally responsible for screening.

System-Wide Gaps
Background checks and smart hiring of caregivers will likely become even more important, as the boomer population is expected to double by 2030. Currently, 17% of people over age 65 require assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing, cooking and cleaning, and the most likely pool of home care and home health care aides -- women ages 25-54 -- is stagnant.

In an ideal world, all caregiver applicants would be required to submit an FBI background check before they were able to care for someone; however, the process is expensive and time-consuming, especially for municipalities that screen hundreds of applicants. The applicant is required to submit his or her fingerprints for analysis, which can cost $19.25 per test. The average processing time for an FBI check is 15 days, but 25% of checks took longer than a month. A person who needs immediate care may not be able to wait.

Make Smart Hiring Choices
Many older people and their families are left to find caregivers on their own, and most of them lack the experience to screen caregivers. Knowing what questions to ask and what qualities to look for in a caregiver can help prevent problems.

Adult children should assert themselves in finding a caregiver for their parents, even if their parents resist. Always strive to hire an agency. Home care agencies have more stringent standards and feature better background checks. It is also wise and prudent to choose a home care agency that conducts thorough, nationwide background screenings and advises the client to question every piece of supporting material the potential caregiver or agency provides. Agencies employ their caregivers, which includes paying taxes and insurances.

Make sure to call references and to find out more about them -- they could be a friend or relative of the caregiver -- and perhaps meet them in person. Additional checking is not out of line. Call previous employers, ask for drug testing and request a credit report to further screen applicants before making a decision.

You can’t be too careful when screening and hiring a caregiver for you or your loved one. Take your time and do your homework. It’s one of the most important and difficult decisions we face.

Home Helpers is a home care agency that features its exclusive Care Check System to ensure the most thorough background checks and clearance. Home Helpers is also a partner with INPEA (www.inpea.net) an organization that promotes education and training of professionals in identification, treatment and prevention of elder abuse and who advocate on behalf of abused and neglected elders.

To learn how we can help you with your loved one’s needs, including complete in-home care with a full range of flexible services, call (877) 464-9090 or contact us online.

About Home Helpers®
Home Helpers is the premier provider of in-home, non-medical and personal care and companionship for seniors, people coping with a lifelong illness or disability, and those recuperating from a recent surgery or hospitalization. Home Helpers is an agency, not a registry. We employ caregivers who are thoroughly screened using our exclusive Care Check System™. By utilizing our Client & Caregiver Matching System™, we ensure the best caregiver selection. We are committed to the delivery of a positive home care experience for your family.

We don’t just take care of our clients, we plan for them, using our comprehensive and customized Home Helpers TotalCare Plan™. Home Helpers is proactive, not reactive, and offers a flexible, affordable continuum of care that changes as our clients’ needs change. We tailor our care plans to our clients’ unique needs and tap our extensive network of referral resources relevant to every aspect of care.

From occasional visits to respite to hospice care, the team at Home Helpers is with you every step of the way, providing guidance, reassurance and compassionate care always.

To learn how we can put together a TotalCare Plan, including helping with a continuum of care plan for you or your loved one, call us at (877) 464-9090 or learn more online.


“Phyllis has been taking care of my father for the past couple months and I wanted to pass along how well she's been doing.   Each time I talk with my Dad, he tells me how much he appreciates having the same person come now and how well she's taking care of his place.  By having a reliable person come and take care of my Dad, it takes the stress of our family and we all really appreciate it”

Kathy S.
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