Saturday, March 13, 2010

Who is Caring for Your Parents?

There are countless seniors and families hiring in home care.  One of the biggest fears is whether you or your loved one will be safe with a stranger in your home.  This is a valid concern, and should be taken seriously.  We all have heard the news resports of seniors being taken advantage of, scammed, and even worse physically hurt or killed.

I cannot emphasize enough the need to know who is coming in your home. AGIS, Assist Guide Information Services, published an article in 2008 entitled  Beware of Former Prisoners Caring for Your Parents The article talks about prison guards advising soon-to-be released convicts that caregiving can be an easy employment opportunity.

Also realize that many individuals advertising as caregiver’s have been fired from agencies for poor conduct, theft, and a host of other problems, that prevent them from working for other agencies. These people will go out on their own advertising themselves as caregiver’s. They can present themselves as caring and professional, but may have a very bad history.

Realize you cannot pick out a criminal by their looks. In my own agency we have met and interviewed individuals who in all appearances seem very upstanding and wholesome, only to find several charges and convictions when we obtained their criminal background check. Charges have been everything from forging checks, and theft to sexual assault. Every time we get a criminal background check back and realize we had a criminal trying to work for us, we are so relieved that are background checks are so well done and we have prevented that person from being employed by us, and going into our client’s homes.

Families also need to be aware of how employees are checked when your lived one is in a long term care facility.  Everyone assumes those employees are safe because they work in a facility, but you may be surprised.

I worked for a very well known national long term care company on the Alzheimer’s unit of one of their facilities. A woman that worked there for quite some time as a registered nurse was found not to be a nurse at all. She presented herself as a nurse, and was hired without a thorough check. When the company found out she was not a nurse she was terminated, only to then threaten to kill the administrator and Director of Nursing. The company had to employ guards to protect the facility, patients and staff 24 hours a day.

If a nationally known company can be duped by a con artist, imagine what can happen in your own home. This is why I cannot emphasize the importance of thoroughly checking the background of individuals coming in your home.

Whether you hire an individual or an agency it is important to make sure the caregiver’s have been given a criminal background check. If you privately hire an individual you have to obtain the criminal background check yourself. If you hire an agency, it’s important to find out if the check has been done and what kind of check. An agency being insured and bonded does not mean criminal background checks have been done.

Realize all criminal background checks are not the same. There are many types of criminal background checks. So how do you know the check is up to date, thorough, and trustworthy? There are database checks, national checks, state checks, county checks, and checks that include everything from name, residence, social security number, sexual offender, driving, and even credit report, and educational background.

When a person is charged and/or convicted of a crime it typically happens in a county court. This is where the information is first entered into the system. It can take months, up to a year to get to and be entered into the state system. Without a county check, and only a state check a person can appear to be free from a criminal past when they may have committed a crime within the last few months.

My Visiting Angels agency uses the most thorough, up to date criminal background checks available. The company we use is  Single Source. The owner of the company, Don Dymer, was a previous inspector for Scotland Yard, and knows and educates on the importance of thorough, up to date checks. They check county, state, national, sexual offender, name, residence, date of birth validation, social security, driving, and a host of other checks. We feel very comfortable and secure in what Single Source does to ensure we are hiring safe caregiver’s.

A lady named Lucia Bone started a nonprofit organization, called Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E, to educate the public and employers and certify companies are sending safe service providers into homes and businesses. The company was started in her sister, Sue Weaver’s, memory. Sue called a nationally known and reputable company to clean the ducts in her home. This company did not provide safe service employees because they sent 2 convicted criminals into her home. They subsequently raped and murdered Sue. To read more go to Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E

Single Source works closely with Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E to educate and be a resource for companies wanting to hire the best criminal background check companies available. You can find a reputable company on the Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E website.

Many families and companies want to spare the expense of thorough and up to date checks, so they either forgo checks at all or get the least expensive checks available. A higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a better check, but you can be almost guaranteed the least expensive aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

My advice is to use a company listed on the Sue Weaver C.A.U.S.E  website.  if you are hiring individuals and need to obtain your own check. If you interview a homecare agency ask them about their criminal background checks. What type of checks they use, what company they use, and look into that company. If a company tells you they use the state police, remember that these checks may be months to a year old.

Some states require agencies to use the state police checks, so agencies have no choice. However, they do have a choice to obtain additional checks.

As much as I want you to think about the checks on private caregiver’s and agencies, also think about other service providers coming in your home. We just assume the cable man, furnace inspector, carpet cleaners, and others are safe because they came from a reputable company, just as Sue Weaver did. It is not unreasonable to ask a company sending a service worker about whether they have obtained a criminal background check on their employees and what type of check.

The time and possible expense you spend on checking who is coming to your home can give you some additional piece of mind. You still need to be alert to any discomfort you feel with a stranger in your home, and listen to that discomfort. Although the advice I have given here will provide the most secure protection available, understand that persons committing crimes who have never been caught will not show up on even the most thorough check.

Have 2 adults in the home at least for the initial visit. Do not leave temptation out in the open such as check books, expensive jewelry, cash and credit cards. Listen to your intuition, and don’t hesitate to ask someone to leave your home if you’re uncomfortable.

There are over 400 Visiting Angels across the US and Canada. One significant advantage when hiring Visiting Angels is the ability to select your caregiver(s). Our process allows you to meet and interview any caregiver that will provide care. We bring the caregiver(s) to your home before service begins so you feel comfortable with inviting a stranger to your home. This provides comfort and ease with our client’s and caregiver’s. Meeting prior to the start of service gives a peace of mind over just having a stranger show up on the 1st day of care. We are very proud of this unique and comfortable care process.

If you hire another agency understand you have the right to request meeting the caregiver’s in advance. How the company reacts to that may be an indication of the quality of service and caregivers, good or bad.

Trust your instincts.  If you have a bad feeling about someone it is good to listen to your instincts.  When you or your loved one receive care, the relationship is one of the most important factors to consider.  Great care can't be provided to a client who is uncomfortable or fearful of the person providing that care.  There is never any reason for anyone to accept care from someone they are not comfortable with.

It is my hope that the information and resources I have provided will keep you and your family as safe as possible!

Angil Tarach-Ritchey RN, GCM can be reached for questions or comments by email, or Join her Facebook Group 


  1. Very informative article Angil.

  2. Angil we are very proud to be a preferred background screening company for Visiting Angels. We supply the most informative and up-to-date background checks to more than half of the Visiting Angel Franchises. We believe in true customer service and will help guide you above and beyond State regulation, ensuring that you and your clients are completely satisfied that you are not sending the wrong person into someone's home and life.

    For further updates you can check our site at or our blog at

    Thank you for all your hard work Angil! You are truly and Angel!


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