Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Risks of Hiring a Caregiver

Last week in San Diego, a caregiver was charged with the murder of an 89-year-old Rancho Bernardo man who disappeared last fall. The case once again highlights how important it is to carefully screen and monitor in-home caregivers.

The percentage of seniors in need of ongoing assistance with daily living activities is expected to double by 2025, according to Brittnei Salerno, who spoke at a Health Care Reform Expo sponsored by local members of CAHSAH.

When a parent in particular requires more care than the family can manage on its own, a common course of action is to find an in-home caregiver so Mom and Dad can age in place. More than 50% find family members to help, while others privately hire someone through classified ads, church bulletins, word of mouth and other informal avenues. Still others use referral or employer-model agencies.

Most states, including California, have no licensing requirements for aide-level care.

The California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes examined private duty home care and found few Californians who hire caregivers on their own know they have a legal right to request a criminal background check through the Department of Justice.

During the state Senate committee examination they determined:

• More than 25% of caregivers from Craigslist and newspaper ads had previous criminal histories

• Crimes ranged from shoplifting and burglary to assaulting a patient and impersonating a registered nurse.

• Using 7 years’ worth of newspaper ads for caregivers, 64 had legal trouble from transgression on the job

• In 27% of those 64 cases, the caregiver had been previously convicted of a crime

• In 13 of those 17 cases, the old crimes mirrored the new crimes

Something else to consider is if the caregiving situation doesn’t work out. Hiring is easy; firing is not. Some are reluctant because they do not have a backup plan and others are fearful of retaliation.

Next Up: What to consider with various caregiver options

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