Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate

Choosing a caregiver for an aging family member may be one of the most critically important decisions you ever make.

We all want someone compassionate, patient, and loving. We want this individual to be our surrogate family member. We must also trust this individual will not take advantage of the circumstances by stealing, through neglect, or worst of all by committing elder abuse.

No matter how well intentioned, hiring an individual from an ad or even a referral is reckless. 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.

A report released by the California State Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes in April shows how seniors can be put at risk when hiring caregivers through private ads.

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.

As someone who has provided non-medical private duty home care for 27 years, 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.

Caregivers should be background checked, well supervised and well trained. When you hire a caregiver, you should be asking a lot of questions. You should not be made to feel uncomfortable doing so. You are not “grilling” someone. An ethical, reputable private duty home care agency will gladly answer them all to your satisfaction.

So where do you start? We recommend following this Home Care Agency Checklist when engaging a caregiver for an older or disabled adult:

The LifeCycles Caregiving Hiring Checklist

  • 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)?

The good news is this: it is possible with minimal assistance from a professional caregiver provided through a reputable organization for seniors to stay safely in their homes and maintain their autonomy, dignity, and independence. We must as a society devote more resources to this type of support, by far the most cost-effective and most humane way to care for the men and women who devoted themselves to their family and to their nation. We owe them this much.

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is President and CEO of At Your Home Familycare in San Diego, California. Read more  LifeCycles in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow At Your Home Familycare on Facebook and on Twitter @AYHFamilycare.
Copyright © 2011 by At Your Home Familycare

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