Unlike nursing home employees, home aides remain a largely unregulated entity. Many home aides are unlicensed and are not subject to the same criminal background checks as nursing home employees. The number of home health care workers for the elderly is on the rise. Currently, there are 1.6 million people employed in the home health care industry.
An incident involving an 85-year-old Priscilla Stovall, who was lethally drugged by her home care aid, draws attention to the need for extensive criminal background checks and ongoing monitoring of home aids who work with the elderly. Although Ms. Stovall’s aid was hired by an agency which specializes in providing home care workers for the elderly, the worker had an extensive criminal background. The worker had a criminal background involving domestic assault, drug smuggling and had done time in prison.
Conducting criminal background checks for the health care workers can be difficult because there is no centralized database with employee information. In a recent Michigan State University study sponsored by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, researchers screened 214,167 people who held or sought jobs working with the elderly. Of the sample group, 5,462 had criminal histories which should have excluded them from the position. Read more about abuse among home care aids amongst the elderly in the Wall Street Journal here.
Before hiring a home care worker for an elderly person or yourself, keep the following in mind:
- Do a criminal background check through a local police department or licensed investigator
- Check all references
- Conduct face-to-face interviews
- Look to the U.S. Administration on Agings website
- Check names in the national sex-offender registry website