Protect Your Family When Hiring an In-Home Healthcare Worker

It’s a topic most people don’t want to think about, especially when they’re young, vibrant and feeling invincible. Eventually, though, it’s something we must all give thought to: our needs and the needs of our loved ones as we get older – or worse, suffer a debilitating condition.

More specifically, what will happen to a loved one when taking care of him becomes too much for the primary caregiver? Will he be moved to a nursing home or other long-term care facility, or might he be able to stay in the comfort of his own home?

In-home healthcare workers play an important role in keeping a loved one at home, but the industry has faced some bad publicity in the last year alone. One of the most shocking cases happened just two months ago in Detroit. A home healthcare worker was supposed to be caring for an 80 year old woman with dementia. Instead, she was only taking care of herself, allegedly stealing more than $1.5 million from the family that hired her. Not only was the caregiver severely neglecting her client; there was even a warrant for her arrest before she even got the job.

How can this happen?

“It shouldn’t,” says Kurt Kazanowski, the founder of Homewatch CareGivers and a health care executive with more than three decades of experience. “This horrifying story demonstrates how vulnerable the elderly can be and how naive some families are when hiring a caregiver or home care agency.”

Kazanowski says in general, the home healthcare industry is full of dedicated professionals who truly love what they do and are making a difference for those for whom they provide care. “It’s a classic case of a few bad apples giving the entire industry a bad reputation,” he says. “Consumers can take some simple measures when hiring an in-home healthcare worker.”

Background Checks

In the Detroit case, Kazanowski says the agency failed to complete a background check on its employee. And he says one background check before the worker is hired isn’t enough. Employers should complete background checks every six months, and these checks should include a motor vehicle background review – something that some background checks don’t include. “Unfortunately, good people turn bad, and bad people can only hide for so long. That’s why ongoing background checks are essential,” he says. “In addition to background checks, always speak to other families that your healthcare worker provided care for and get their feedback.”

Shop Around

Hiring an in-home healthcare worker is one of the most important decisions a family can make. Even if the healthcare worker comes highly recommended and has an impressive resume, the match needs to feel like a good one to the family and especially the patient. “I always tell people it’s like buying a car, only more important,” Kazanowski says. “You wouldn’t buy the first car you test drive, so why in the world would you settle on the first home healthcare company you find or meet with?”

Meet Ahead of Time

Once you find an in-home healthcare agency with which you are comfortable, the next step is meeting with the person who will actually be providing the care. “Insist on meeting the actual healthcare worker who you will be letting into your home,” Kazanowski says. “The problem is most families just meet with an administrator or salesman from the company, not the actual healthcare provider. This isn’t good enough. Any reputable in-home healthcare agency will accommodate this request. And make sure to meet prior to the first day on the job in case any issues or concerns need to be addressed.”

Quality Assurance Checks

You probably remember gritting your teeth and the heart palpations when you faced a pop quiz back in high school. For a home healthcare worker, quality assurance checks are no different. Kazanowski says some are scheduled, some are unscheduled and all are in place to make sure the in-home healthcare workers are following the care plan. “A reputable in-home healthcare agency will provide regular quality assurance checks or ‘spot visits’ to check on the caregiver and make sure all is well in the home,” he says. “It ensures that your loved one is properly cared for, bathed frequently, takes medication as prescribed and is living in a clean and healthy environment.”

Status Reports and Point of Contact

Most caregivers and the families they serve develop a strong bond: the worker becomes like family to the loved ones of the person they care for. Sometimes you can address very minor issues directly with the worker. Still, a reputable in-home healthcare agency should provide you an easy-to-reach company contact to discuss any concerns. In addition, regular status reports should be provided by the healthcare company to the spouse or immediate family of the person receiving care. “These status reports are like an update or a progress report on how the patient is doing, what can be improved on and addresses other concerns the healthcare worker has,” Kazanowski says. “The reality is that most relationships are a great match, and very rarely do any surprises arise as part of these status updates. But they are a good way to document that the care plan is being followed.”

Family Involvement

The most important piece of advice that Kazanowski gives his own clients: family members must be involved and keep tabs on what’s going on.

“Keep an eye on credit card statements, checking and saving account balances and other important financial documents,” he says. “Have mail forwarded to the children of the elderly family member. Children should make unannounced visits to the home. And ask the home care worker to provide receipts if he or she does grocery shopping or makes any purchases on behalf of your loved one.”

The need for in-home care will continue to be in demand, especially as the aging of America crests in 2030. With some due diligence, it is very possible to find an in-home healthcare company that will provide excellent care and give you peace of mind while providing your loved one safety, security and a sense of independence.

by Jane Wilkens Michael

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