Findings illustrate the risks of hiring caregivers through private ads. California’s seniors are at risk when hiring caregivers through private ads, according to a report released by the state Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes today.

Investigators contacted individuals who posted ads on Craigslist for in-home care providers. According to the report, five individuals offering services had extensive criminal records including convictions for drug trafficking, major theft, burglary and prostitution.

The report also found that 27 percent of caregivers in 64 recent criminal cases involving seniors had previous convictions on their criminal record.

Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, President and Founder of At Your Home Familycare, has provided non-medical private duty home care for for 27 years. She says it is vital to engage caregivers from a certified or accredited, bonded company that has successfully met state and national standards, with a substantial 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. An ethical, reputable private duty home care agency will gladly answer them all to your satisfaction.

While a 2008 state law (Senate Bill 692) allows seniors and their families to conduct criminal screening through the Department of Justice, the report found there is confusion about how to do so and the service is not user friendly.

“It’s impractical to ask a family to conduct their own criminal background checks,” said Edwards-Tate.  “Even so, 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?
  • 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 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States, this issue is rapidly becoming more acute,” said Edwards-Tate. “Seniors and their families 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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