New Study Finds Many Agencies Place Unqualified Caregivers in Homes of Elderly without Background Checks or Drug Testing

A recent nationwide study from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has found that many agencies who place caregivers in the homes of elderly people do not conduct national criminal background checks or drug testing. Moreover, these agencies do not require any experience or provide any real training or supervision for these caregivers.
For the study, researchers posed as consumers and surveyed 180 agencies across the country about their hiring methods, screening measures, training practices, skill competencies assessments, and supervision. Researchers found:

• Only 55% of the agencies interviewed said they performed a federal background check.
• Only 33% of agencies interviewed said they conducted drug testing.
• Only 33% of agencies interviewed said they tested for caregiver skill competency, mostly through “client feedback” or “self-reports” where the caregivers describe their own skills.
• Only 30% of the agencies interviewed said they sent supervisors on home visits to check on caregivers frequently initially and then at least once a month.
• Some of the agencies interviewed recruited random strangers off Craigslist and placed them in the homes of elderly people

Lee Lindquist, MD, MPH, an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, finds these statistics alarming. Lindquist was lead study author for the study and claims that “some of the paid caregivers are so unqualified it’s scary and really puts the senior at risk.”

“People have a false sense of security when they hire a caregiver from an agency,” Lindquist said. Because most of these agencies do not perform federal, nationwide background checks, an applicant caregiver could have been convicted of a serious crime in one state and the out-of-state agency would never know about it. Also, considering that many seniors often take prescribed pain medication, there is a high risk of hiring a caregiver with a history of illicit drug use who may use or steal the patients’ medication. These are just some of the concerns Lindquist expresses in the news article published in the July 13, 2012 issue of the Journal of American Geriatrics Society.

Lindquist advises people hiring a paid caregiver through an agency to ask the agency the following ten questions:

1. How do you recruit caregivers, and what are your hiring requirements?
2. What types of screenings are performed on caregivers before you hire them? Criminal background check – federal or state? Drug testing? Other?
3. Are they certified in CPR or do they have any health-related training?
4. Are the caregivers insured and bonded through your agency?
5. What competencies are expected of the caregiver you send to the home? (These could include lifting and transfers, homemaking skills, personal care skills such as bathing, dressing, toileting, training in behavioral management, and cognitive support.)
6. How do you assess what the caregiver is capable of doing?
7. What is your policy on providing a substitute caregiver if a regular caregiver cannot provide the contracted services?
8. If there is dissatisfaction with a particular caregiver, will a substitute be provided?
9. Does the agency provide a supervisor to evaluate the quality of home care on a regular basis? How frequently?
10. Does supervision occur over the telephone, through progress reports or in-person at the home of the older adult?

If you suspect that a friend, family member, or loved one has been the victim of elder abuse by an unqualified in-home caregiver, contact an experienced California elder abuse lawyer at (866) 338-7079 for a free and confidential consultation. Christopher Walton has significant experience providing caring, compassionate representation to victims of elder abuse and their families. He can help you reach out to any appropriate agencies and advocate for your rights.

Sources:
Many Agencies Place Unqualified Caregivers in Homes of Elderly without Background Checks or Drug Testing, by Tom Ahearn; http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2012/07/11/many-agencies-place-unqualified-caregivers-in-homes-of-elderly-without-background-checks-or-drug-testing/
New Study Finds Many Agencies Place Unqualified Caregivers in Home of the Elderly, by Marla Paul; http://www.feinberg.northwestern.edu/news/2012/07/dangerous_caregivers.html