Breaking News
Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Who's taking care of Mom?

The July Journal of the American Geriatric Society has a disturbing article - "Hiring and Screening Practices of Agencies Supplying Paid Caregivers to Older Adults."

Researchers at Northwestern School of Medicine posing as prospective clients seeking a caregiver for an elderly adult relative, contacted 180 agencies and asked about hiring, screening, and supervisory practices. Their findings aren't pretty!

67% of the agencies required experience, but this was often assessed by self-report. 62% checked references. 92% checked criminal background within the state, but no agencies checked other states, meaning that someone who had been convicted elsewhere would appear to have a clean record. English language proficiency was assessed via the interview, and no agencies assessed health literacy (ability to understand physician recommendations, dosage schedules, and so forth). 31% conducted drug screening. 7% verified citizenship or visa status. Training and supervision were very limited. The researchers conclude:
The screening and training practices in use by caregiver agencies are highly variable and often of poor quality. Using an agency to hire paid caregivers may give older adults and their families a false sense of security regarding the background and skill set of the caregivers.

Home care for the elderly has the makings of a perfect storm. It brings together vulnerable elderly with a marginalized population of poor, often immigrant, workers. This is a setup for exploitation - sometimes of the elderly by the "caretaker," and sometimes of the caretaker by the agencies that hire them.

When my father, who lived 1,000 miles from where I was, lost his vision and entered the early stage of cognitive decline, my cousin needed a place to live and moved in with him. He provided eyesight, companionship, and driving. My father provided lodging and paid for food. It was a true win/win situation.

But this kind of good luck is the exception, not the rule.  Agencies, like the 180 surveyed in the study, are filling a vacuum in our fragmented society. Unfortunately, as the study reveals, being hired by an agency is not a reliable stamp of approval.


Post a Comment

Toggle Footer