By Kurt Kazanowski
In the last year alone, it has happened in Atlanta, Salt Lake City and Sarasota. Chances are, it has even happened in your city or to someone you know. Stories of home healthcare workers abusing and stealing from their elderly clients are becoming more frequent.
One of the most shocking cases happened just two months ago in Detroit. A home healthcare worker was supposed to be caring for an 80 year old woman with dementia, but instead was only taking care for herself – allegedly stealing more than $1.5 million from the family that hired her. Not only was the caregiver severely neglecting her client, she had a warrant out for her arrest before she even got the job.
This horrifying story demonstrates how vulnerable the elderly can be and how naive some families are when hiring a caregiver or home care agency. The time to address this problem is now because the need for in-home care will only continue to grow as the aging of America crests in 2030.
Despite these unfortunate incidents, home healthcare workers serve an important role, and the industry is filled with plenty of hardworking, honest and caring professionals. As a consumer, you want to ensure the best care for a loved one, and you can by doing your due diligence.
Don’t settle on the first company you find
Chances are you wouldn’t buy the first car you test drive, so why would you settle on the first home healthcare company you find or meet with? Start by reviewing the company’s website. Check the reviews from other families who have used this company. Visit Caring.com for honest reviews and feedback about in-home care companies.
Ongoing background checks
Find out if the home care agency completes a national criminal background check, as well as conducts a motor vehicle background review every six month. One background check upon hiring is not enough. Screening must be an ongoing process. Never hire a company that doesn’t take this simple step to ensure the safety of its patients.
Regular quality assurance checks
Find out if the home care company does regular quality assurance checks. A quality assurance check is a regular spot check on the caregiver to make sure all is well in the home and that the care plan is being followed. It ensures that your loved one is properly cared for, bathed frequently, takes medication as prescribed and is living in a clean and healthy environment.
Find out if the home care agency you hire meets with you or speaks to you on a regular basis to update you on the care being delivered to your loved one, and answers any questions you have. A reputable company will do this on an ongoing basis or as frequently as you request.
Meet your healthcare worker ahead of time
When you meet with a homecare company, often times you meet with an administrator or someone whose job it is to sell you on the company. This isn’t good enough! Request to personally meet the healthcare worker who will be providing care for your loved one in advance of him or her showing up to your home. Any reputable home healthcare agency would be willing to arrange that. Also, make sure and speak to the families of other patients your home healthcare worker cared for and ask for their honest feedback.
Family members play a role
Also remember that family members play an important role in looking after a loved one. Keep an eye on credit card statements, checking and saving account balances and other important financial documents; have mail forwarded to the children of the elderly family member; children should make unannounced visits to the home; and ask the home care worker to provide receipts if he or she does grocery shopping or makes any purchases on behalf of your loved one.
Can you hire a private caregiver through the internet for less money than hiring a personal care company? Absolutely! But before you do, make sure you understand all the liability you assume by doing so.
If the caregiver is hurt while on the job, you are responsible for damages. Caregivers working as independent contractors are not bonded and insured, and any loss you experience through theft most likely won’t be recovered. Who is going to pay the mandated taxes and withholding? Lastly, you truly don’t know who you are letting into your home as a background check won’t be completed.
The aging of America, let alone the world, will further drive the need for in-home care as families work to keep a loved one safe, secure and independent at home. With some good due diligence, you will find a personal care home health company that will provide both excellent care and give you peace of mind.
Kurt A. Kazanowski, MS, RN, CHE is a seasoned health care executive with over three decades of experience. Kurt also owns a personal care home health company called Homewatch CareGivers. www.thehomecareexpert.com.
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