Reprinted from the April 30, 2008 issue of the West Hartford News
To the editor:
I am writing in response to the article that was published in the April 24th issue regarding the home healthcare worker who was arrested for stealing from an elderly client. As the owner of a home healthcare agency in West Hartford, I would like to raise additional awareness as to some of the issues that were presented in the article, and offer three specific recommendations.
Home healthcare is a wonderful alternative to assisted living or nursing home care and should not be feared. Many people can and do stay in their own home and flourish there at a lower cost than going to live elsewhere. Most home healthcare workers are hard-working loyal individuals who care deeply for their clients. They have one of the hardest jobs possible. Those of us who have been caregivers for family members can relate to what I am saying. Unfortunately however, there are some caregivers who are not in the business for the right reasons. It is these individuals who we must be very careful about when we are hiring homecare providers.
First, the article described the importance of doing a background check on a caregiver. I can not stress enough the importance of this step. In fact, while your writer described checking with the local or state police, in my opinion this does not go far enough to ensure an appropriate level of awareness regarding someone’s background. Town police will only give you background check results for the town of West Hartford. State police background checks will only give you results for the State of Connecticut. I know that if I was hiring someone to care for my parents I would want to know if they had been arrested anywhere in the United States. Furthermore, I have found that there are even many agencies that exclusively perform state background checks. I encourage your readership that if they are going to use an agency (which should ALWAYS be performing background checks on their employees in accordance with specified practices by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection), they ask the question about state vs. national background checks.
Second, I urge your readers consider using a homecare agency to find a good caregiver. This allows the individual and their family peace of mind in many areas. The best agencies not only perform national background checks, they also do professional reference checks, ensure the caregiver is qualified to handle the responsibilities that are required, train the caregiver, deduct employment taxes and Social Security from the caregiver’s paycheck, and insure and bond their employees to protect the clients hiring them (which would have helped to replace the $4,500 stolen from the victim described in the article). Equally important, an agency takes the management of the caregiver out of the hands of the family. This includes finding a back-up in the case that the caregiver gets sick or takes time off. Yes, an agency may cost more, but isn’t it worth it?
Finally, as the article stated, one should lock up valuables, and have a family member or trusted friend handle the individuals finances if that is required. At Companions for Living, we have a strict policy in place to limit caregiver exposure to client finances. In fact, caregivers are not allowed to write checks or use credit card belonging to clients, and can only handle up to $50 in cash for shopping or other errands. To find out more, please visit our website at www.companionsforliving.com.
President, Companions for Living, LLC
West Hartford, CT