Dangerous Caregivers for Elderly

Photo: List with "yes" and "no"

© panthermedia.net/Lasse Kristensen

If you hire a caregiver from an agency for an elderly family member, you might assume the person had undergone a thorough criminal background check and drug testing, was experienced and trained for the job. You'd be wrong in many cases, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

A troubling new national study finds many agencies recruit random strangers off Craigslist and place them in the homes of vulnerable elderly people with dementia, do not do national criminal background checks or drug testing, lie about testing the qualifications of caregivers and don't require any experience or provide real training.

"People have a false sense of security when they hire a caregiver from an agency," said lead study author Lee Lindquist, an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "There are good agencies out there, but there are plenty of bad ones and consumers need to be aware that they may not be getting the safe, qualified caregiver they expect. It's dangerous for the elderly patient who may be cognitively impaired."

Lindquist, a geriatrician, personally has seen a number of bad caregivers accompanying patients in her clinic. "Some of the paid caregivers are so unqualified it's scary and really puts the senior at risk," she said.

"The public should demand higher standards, but in the short term, seniors need to be aware what explicitly to look for when hiring a paid caregiver through an agency," Lindquist said.

Below are Lindquist's ten questions to ask an agency prior to hiring a paid caregiver:

    10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Caregiver

  • 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 screening? 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?
  • 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?

MEDICA.de; Source: Northwestern University