Seek accreditation and ask the right questions to ensure quality care and safety

The shocking arrest of the caregiver to a Pearl Harbor veteran in San Diego County on felony charges of elder abuse brings to light the critical importance of carefully choosing a caregiver.
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, President and Founder of At Your Home Familycare, has provided non-medical private duty home care for older and disabled adults for 27 years. She says it is vitally important to engage caregivers from an accredited, bonded company that has successfully met state and national standards, with a substantial business history and specific guidelines.

“This is one of the most critically important decisions you may ever make,” said Edwards-Tate. “Caregivers should be background checked, well supervised and well trained. When you hire a caregiver, you should be asking a lot of questions and all of them should be answered to your complete satisfaction. An ethical, reputable private duty home care agency will gladly answer them all to your satisfaction.

“It might be tempting to hire someone privately such as a neighbor or friend. But no matter how well-intentioned, an individual is not under independent supervision and may not be properly trained. You also become liable for any issues that arise such as on the job, injuries, abuses or conflicts,” advised Edwards-Tate.

Edwards-Tate recommends following this Home Care Agency Checklist when engaging a caregiver for an older or disabled adult:

  • Does the agency have a business license and any necessary state certifications?
  • Are caregivers “employees,” making the agency responsible for paying all employee payroll taxes, as required by law?
  • Does the agency provide Worker’s Compensation Insurance, Professional Liability Insurance, and Fidelity Bond Insurance (this is sometimes referred to as “theft” insurance)?
  • Are criminal background checks performed on all employees?
  • Are caregivers provided training in CPR, First Aid, and caregiving skills?
  • Is there active management of the caregiver by a direct supervisor or manager who regularly visits the client and caregiver in the home or other living facility?
  • Is there an established Plan of Care created for the client?
  • Is there a 24-hour on-call number if there is any kind of emergency after hours or on weekends?
  • How many hours do you require?
  • Do you need a caregiver who speaks a specific language?
  • Do you need a caregiver who can escort the client to doctor’s appointments, errands and social activities? What kind of transportation will be provided?
  • If there is memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, is the caregiver qualified to work with a client suffering with these conditions?
  • If there are physical disabilities or infirmities, is the caregiver physically capable and trained to manage the client safely?
  • Does the agency work in cooperation with government and nonprofit social services and provide referrals to supplemental programs and services that may be available, such as those for veterans?
  • Does the agency belong to and is active in the Private Duty Home Care Association of America (PDHCA)?

“With the aging of the Baby Boomer population hitting us as 20,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States, this issue is rapidly becoming more acute,” said Edwards-Tate. “Seniors and their loved ones may not be aware of a gradual decline and may be reluctant to accept reality, or unable to plan for needed care,” said Edwards-Tate. “They may not be aware that with minimal assistance from a professional caregiver provided through a reputable organization, they can stay safely in their homes and maintain their autonomy, dignity, and independence.”

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