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New Study Finds Untrained Caregivers May Pose Risk for Elderly




A new study found that a large number of aides providing care for U.S. seniors aren’t properly screened, trained, or checked for drugs. This lack of proper care increases the likelihood that nursing home neglect or abuse will occur.

The study, which appeared in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, looked at 180 caregiver agencies in Illinois, California, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Wisconsin and Indiana. Researchers focused on caregivers who enter the homes of elderly clients to provide help with activities like getting dressed, cleaning house, and fixing meals.

Under law, these types of caregivers cannot give patients medication—though they can help seniors remember to take their own medications.

For the study, researchers posed as people interested in hiring caregivers for the elderly and questioned agencies about their policies for hiring, training and monitoring employees. According to their findings, only about 56 percent of agencies said they carried out federal background checks on their employees. Only around one-third tested aides and caregivers for drug use.

When it came to training, the study’s authors found that training periods varied widely, though the longest period was only about 7 days. In some cases, companies provided no training and no oversight. The study found that most agencies recruited employees through advertisements—which, according to the agencies in the report, includes efforts like posting jobs on Craigslist.

Lead author of the report, Dr. Lee Lindquist, noted that most of these agencies serving the elderly are unregulated—though requirements do change with each state. This lack of oversight is especially disturbing with the study’s finding that some elder care companies will lie about an employee’s background and credentials. In one example, an agency said that it used the “National Scantron Test for Inappropriate Behaviors,” to screen employees. Researchers found that no such test seemed to exist.

Advocates for elderly patients, like the Alzheimer’s Association, and other medical experts advise people who are worried about the care of an elderly family member or loved one to conduct unannounced ‘drop-in’ visits to see how well an aide or caregiver is doing. While searching for a caregiver, it’s important that people ask the right questions. Dr. Lindquist and her study team said that the following questions are a good place to start when screening any agency:

  • How do you recruit caregivers, and what are your hiring requirements?
  • What screenings are performed before you hire a caregiver? Criminal background check? Federal or state? Drugs?
  • Do aides have CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification or any health-related training?
  • Are caregivers insured and bonded through your agency?
  • What skills are expected of the caregiver you send to the home? Examples: lifting and transfers, homemaking skills, personal care skills (bathing, dressing), and training in behavioral management.
  • How do you assess the caregiver’s capabilities?
  • What is your policy regarding substitute caregivers if a regular caregiver cannot provide the contracted services?
  • If you’re dissatisfied with a particular caregiver, can he or she be replaced “without cause”?
  • Does the agency provide a supervisor to evaluate the quality of home care on a regular basis? How often?
  • Does supervision occur over the telephone, through progress reports, or in person at the home of the older adult?

If an elderly loved one has been abused, injured or died in a nursing home or assisted care facility, please call Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. at 312-361-1823. Our staff is experienced in both law and medicine and handles cases in Wisconsin and Illinois. If you believe a family member has been a victim of nursing home negligence, please contact our office for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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