care is an option which allows older people to continue to live
at home and preserve their autonomy. But the home setting can
open the door to vulnerability and potential abuse, neglect
and exploitation. It is critical for family members to follow
careful hiring practices and do complete background checks before
hiring someone to care for a loved one at home.
Although many people who apply for home jobs are qualified and
caring individuals, many others are criminals who prey on the
elderly and infirm. Some of the problematic areas include theft,
substance abuse, and elder abuse and neglect.
Theft can range from petty theft to felonious stealing to support
an addiction or higher lifestyle.
Substance abuse will cause absenteeism and the potential for
abuse and exploitation. The co-dependency of an addicted person
and someone who is frail can only lead to problems.
Elder abuse has been kept secret for many years. Despite some
media attention, it still has not received the public sympathy
of similar crimes, such as child abuse and spousal abuse. Some
states maintain registries of complaints filed against individuals
for physical, emotional, psychological or financial abuse against
the elderly. Connecticut is not among them.
There is no guarantee, not even from an agency, that a caregiver
will not harm an elder person. That's why a thorough check is
critical before hiring someone for home care. Get proof of the
full name, birth date, driver's license number, Social Security
number and current address.
You can request that the candidate sign a general release form.
This should include release of the medical history, credit information,
motor vehicle records and police records. Fees may be attached
to any of the above record searches. Check in advance to determine
procedures and fees because they vary by state and community.
Be sure to check motor vehicle records if the job includes driving
the elder individual. Check for lapsed or revoked licenses and
moving violations. Take a test ride with the potential caregiver.
You might have the individual fill out a Statement of Health
If you require that the candidate have a physical examination
and lab tests, you should be responsible for all costs, i.e.
tuberculosis test, flu shots, etc. The frail elder person may
have an impaired immune system and be vulnerable to infections,
such as pneumonia.
Local police detectives emphasize a thorough reference check,
regardless of whether or not an agency is involved. Call previous
employers. What was the outcome of previous employment? Why
was it terminated? In addition, police recommend the following:
- Be sure
that the individual being considered for employment in the
home is bonded, regardless of whether that person is being
hired through an agency or not. Then be sure to check directly
with the bonding company to confirm that the person is, in
the Better Business Bureau. Are there any complaints on file?
the local police station where the individual lives. Are the
police aware of any problems?
town hall and/or social services in that town. Have they heard
of the individual? Have there been any reports negative or
- Do a
detailed interview. Be sure that you're "on the same page"
and that the personalities of the individuals are compatible.
as noted in previous "New Wrinkles" columns, be sure that you
have a written and signed contract with the home caregiver,
which specifies all responsibilities and payment arrangements.
In short, take precautions. Do your homework and talk to people.
The more checking you do, the more assured you will be that
you will be hiring someone you trust with your loved one and
their personal property.