Choosing Home Health Care Aides

Frequently our Florida Elder Neglect attorneys are asked whether hiring a home health aide to watch over an elderly loved one, in our home or theirs, is a good idea and what should someone look for.

You should treat the hiring of a home health care person with the same scrutiny as you would for your child.

First – consider what the home health care person is doing for your loved one.

If this person will be responsible for medically-related duties, he or she should be a licensed, certified nursing assistant, or CAN, who will be regulated by a state agency.

A CNA can work for a home health agency. Find out more about their qualifications: or call 850-245-4567.

However, if this person is hired to provide housekeeping, cooking and non-medical services, you may need to conduct your own background check.

In Florida, California, Connecticut, and at least 19 other states, non-medical home health care aides are not required to be licensed, certified nor regulated by a state agency. Criminal background checks are not required.

And that’s where the problems have come in. Stories of nursing home abuse in Florida and neglect of elderly patients in Jacksonville have been in the news, as have stories of identity theft or the theft of personal belongings, drugs or cash.

Be aware that most abuse and neglect cases involve non-medical aides hired to help around the house and that most victims are afraid to report the abuse.

If you are looking for a reputable, reliable home health care person, it’s probably a safer bet to go through an agency; however, be sure to ask the agency what background checks have been done and be sure they include, at a minimum, a state police criminal background check.

Make sure that the agency has run a national criminal database check to the extent it is possible. Some agencies do not have that authorization.

A Medicare or Medicaid home health agency requires training of at least 75 hours and an evaluation program. A licensed-only agency may require additional training above at least 40 hours or a competency test given by the agency.

If you are doing the hiring, be sure to check references and conduct your own state police criminal background check.

Also, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on your loved one’s spending patterns. Unscrupulous caregivers can bully your uncle into giving them money or buying them expensive “gifts.” An unexplained trip to Las Vegas might be a red flag.

People already feeling guilty, are looking for peace of mind when they hire a care giver.

Don’t be shy about asking for help from others. A specific request usually works best.

For more information on how to find caregivers and other senior citizen resources, visit www.eldercare.gov or call 800-677-1116.

You can also check the name of your caregiver against a sex-offender registry available at www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/cac/registry.htm

And check the Agency for Health Care Administration with any other questions at (850) 414-6010. To research statistics on the elderly and home health aides go to: http://www.uscare.com/whyltc.html.

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