Caregivers Study: Some So Unqualified “It’s Scary”

Caregiving qualifications need improvement, a new Northwestern University Medicine research report finds. Some care-seekers find “random strangers” on Craigslist, lacking criminal background checks, drug testing and experience in general, the study finds. 

Caregivers hired by agencies showed serious problems as well, with some agencies falsely reported they had tested their hired caregivers via tests that don’t exist. Further, only 55% reported having conducted a federal background check of their caregiver employees and fewer—a third—reported having tested caregivers for drug use. 

According to a Northwestern News report on the study, its authors found many concerns when it came to those providing care services for older adults. 

“People have a false sense of security when they hire a caregiver from an agency,” lead study author Lee Lindquist, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital told Northwestern News. “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….Some of the paid caregivers are so unqualified it’s scary and really puts the senior at risk,” she told the publication.

The report examined the process by which caregiving agencies hired their employees in five states with a high concentration of older people who receive care in their homes—California, Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Wisconsin. Agencies that provided paid caregiver services for adults under several different terms such as “companions,” “direct care worker,” “personal care attendant,” and others, were studied. Researchers posed as adult children of those seeking caregiving services and inquired via telephone about the qualifications. 

In the study comprising 180 agencies, 14% used the Internet to solicit new employees. Additionally, 64% reported asking for references and 67% required previous experience. Skills were largely self reported. 

“Using an agency to hire paid caregivers may give older adults and their families a false sense of security regarding the background and skill set of the caregivers,” the study writes. 

Read the Northwestern News report

Written by Elizabeth Ecker