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How Can Seniors Know Who’s About to Take Care of Them at Home?

Michael was 73 and widowed when he found himself in the hospital having suffered a stroke. Listening to his doctor report the news and then finding some family surrounding him (having flown in from other regions around the country) it was difficult for him to accept. He never imagined requiring help just getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, or taking a shower. Yet, this was the new reality facing him.

His doctor was optimistic Michael would be able to return to some semblance of normalcy in time, but it was going to be a lengthy, exhausting, and difficult road through physical therapy and significant effort. Because his adult children and the rest of his family lived a long distance from him, he was going to require home care support. He was concerned, mostly because he didn’t like the idea of a stranger coming into his house.

This is a problem many seniors face when physical limitations and health issues arise and they need support. The idea of hiring somebody they know nothing about can be exceedingly intimidating. Michael looked at a number of options and found that a few home care agencies in the Boston area were far better than taking a stab in the dark and hiring somebody independently, without credentials, and for whom it may be difficult to verify the information provided in their application.

Not all home care agencies conduct background checks on their caregivers, but a growing number are realizing the importance of this. For states like Massachusetts that don’t require home care aides to be licensed, protecting aging and disabled clients becomes the responsibility of those agencies. Unfortunately, not everyone is like Michael and realizes the difference between independent caregivers and those hired through an agency. They are the ones that may find themselves in an unpleasant situation.

The Boston Globe noted in its blog, Stranger in the house, written by Linda Matchan and published September 15, 2018:

“But sometimes they help themselves — to their clients’ money, belongings, medications, even identities. It can be a predator’s dream career.

Astonishingly, there is almost no government safety net to protect people seeking home care from these dangerous strangers. Unlike nurses — or even hairdressers or manicurists — home aides don’t need a state license. Anyone can call him or herself a home care worker in Massachusetts and work privately, though state law mandates that home care agencies perform criminal background checks on workers. Agencies typically offer greater accountability and supervision of aides than workers hired privately, but they’re too expensive for many families.”

Home care agency owners as well as their employees can take a more vested role in educating the general public about the benefits they offer as well as the challenges one may face in hiring independently. Cost may certainly be a factor, but as more people become aware of the benefits home care provides, not only saving the government money compared to nursing home costs, but also offering seniors and disabled adults a more comfortable environment in which to live, the resources may become available to help increasing numbers of seniors and disabled adults remain where they are most comfortable.

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