It’s every family member’s worst nightmare. You receive a phone call in the middle of the night – your elderly mom or dad is in the hospital. Maybe they have a raging infection, or they fell and broke a hip. Perhaps doctors are still running tests, and they don’t know what’s wrong yet. You hang up with the hospital only to call your parent’s home health aide. The phone just rings and rings. You don’t understand – where on earth is the aide? You hired someone to care for your parent precisely so you wouldn’t run into these situations. Feelings of dread begin to stir inside you. Despite your best efforts, did you accidentally hire a dangerous caregiver?
Are dangerous caretakers becoming more common?
If you find yourself in these difficult circumstances – or just want to know who the “bad” aides are before you hire them — you’re not alone. Many people are placed in the predicament of hiring an aide with little information to go on. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that more than 424,200 new home health care positions will be created by 2022. That’s a lot of background checks to do! It’s possible this will make dangerous caretakers more common, but only because the professions’ ranks will swell overall.
The signs of dangerous caregivers
What, exactly, are the signs of a dangerous caregiver? Here are a few red flags that may show your senior’s aide is unqualified, unscrupulous, or worse:
- They refuse to supply references, a home address, or submit to a background check. Run, do not walk, from these caregivers! They are likely to be completely unqualified or even running a scam. Another thing to be watchful of is if the person has moved from state to state a great deal in a short amount of time. Unless they can provide a reasonable explanation for the moves (ex., their spouse was in the military), this may mean they are evading the law, state homecare regulations, or both.
- Your senior has unexplained bruises, infections, or illnesses. If you’ve already hired the caregiver, and your senior has constant injuries or ailments their medical history can’t explain, you may be dealing with a dangerous caregiver.
- Your senior seems afraid of them. Sometimes, an abused or neglected senior doesn’t show overt signs of harm. Your caregiver may be threatening them when you’re not around, leading them to be fearful and anxious when the caregiver is present – another red flag.
- They ignore your senior. If you come home at the end of the day and the aide is watching tv or on the phone, the house is a mess, and your senior is hungry, cold, or worse this dangerous caregiver is neglecting your loved one.
- They work solo. Although this doesn’t automatically qualify them as dangerous, it’s worthwhile to be a little more scrutinizing with solo caregivers. Usually, those who are reputable work with an agency, which checks their credentials and usually covers them under the agency’s liability policy.
- They’re a friend or family member. Surprised? Informally hiring someone to provide care may seem harmless at first, but this often turns out to be a bad idea. A dangerous caregiver may simply be someone well-meaning, but who doesn’t have the experience or skill necessary to do the job right. Caring for an elderly friend or relative in the past, while very noble, isn’t a substitute for education, training, certification, licensure, bonding, and proof of insurance.
- Something about them seems fishy or off. If you have any reservations about the person you’re considering hiring, always go with your gut. Give them a polite “No, thank you,” and move on to the next person on your list.
Protect your loved one from dangerous caregivers
The truth is most caretakers – whether professional or not – likely do not have ill intentions toward your senior. But even for those who don’t, their good heart alone isn’t enough to protect your loved ones. These intentions are best backed up with a clean criminal record, affiliation with a reputable agency, and a safe, secure feeling you get when you leave your senior in their hands.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.