Dangerous Caregivers for Elderly

Photo: List with "yes" and "no" 

Agencies place unqualified, possibly criminal caregivers in homes of vulnerable seniors. Study shows ways of prevention.

If you hire a caregiver from an agency for an elderly family member, you might assume the person had undergone a thorough criminal background check and drug testing, was experienced and trained for the job. You'd be wrong in many cases, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

A troubling new national study finds many agencies recruit random strangers off Craigslist and place them in the homes of vulnerable elderly people with dementia, do not do national criminal background checks or drug testing, lie about testing the qualifications of caregivers and do not require any experience or provide real training.

"People have a false sense of security when they hire a caregiver from an agency," said lead study author Lee Lindquist, an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "There are good agencies out there, but there are plenty of bad ones and consumers need to be aware that they may not be getting the safe, qualified caregiver they expect. It's dangerous for the elderly patient who may be cognitively impaired."

Lindquist, a geriatrician, personally has seen a number of bad caregivers accompanying patients in her clinic. "Some of the paid caregivers are so unqualified it's scary and really puts the senior at risk," she said.

"The public should demand higher standards, but in the short term, seniors need to be aware what explicitly to look for when hiring a paid caregiver through an agency," Lindquist said.

Below are Lindquist's ten questions to ask an agency prior to hiring a paid caregiver:

REHACARE.de; Source: Northwestern University

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