ABC News: Caregiver Providers Present False Sense of Security

As demand for home health care increases, some home care agencies are granting employment to under-qualified individuals who often do not undergo background checks or drug testing, ABC News reported earlier this week. 

A study led by Dr. Lee Lindquist, geriatrician and associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine researched 160 home care agencies by acting as someone interested in finding a home care provider and asking questions  about the each agency’s hiring process and training.

The study found many agencies lie about the abilities of their care givers and use websites like Craigslist to recruit employees. Fifty-five percent of agencies researched conducted federal background checks on employees, and only one-third administered drug tests, according to the study. 

ABC reports:

People have a “false sense of security” when they work with an agency, according to Lindquist. “It’s kind of like the wild west — anybody from a plumber to an architect can set up shop. It’s getting worse and it’s scary because more people want to stay in their homes longer and it’s the best place for most seniors.”

More than 12 million Americans receive home health care from 33,000 providers, according to the National Association for Home Care and Hospice.

Nursing homes are regulated because they accept Medicare dollars, but regulations on home care varies from state to state, according to Lindquist.

Most agencies relied on self-reporting of experience and only one-third tested applicants for skill competency and waited for “client feedback,” the study found.

When asked about drug testing, some agencies told researchers, “Oh no, unless you pay for it.”

To find a reputable agency, Linquist advises talking to friends and family and get “word of mouth” to get recommendations for good and bad agencies. Private duty nursing associations can also be helpful, but they represent only a small number of agencies and “cannot vet everyone.”

Lindquist said ultimately, laws must change to provide more regulation of the industry, but she hopes her study will educate consumers who can put more market pressure on the bad agencies to get out of the home care business.

Read the full ABC News article.  

Written by Erin Hegarty