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Mary’s Worst Home Care Nightmare

For many families, keeping their elderly loved one at home will require in home assistance.  There are many quality home health care companies in the area so finding one isnât a problem.  But I find so often that clients donât go through a licensed agency  because of the cost.  While I have written in the past about the Medicaid problem of hiring aides directly and paying cash (7/20/09 post), there is another very real risk, safety.  The following story is one, unfortunately, I have heard more than once.

Mary found an aide to care for Dad through an agency she had learned of from a friend.  I know many of the quality licensed agencies in the area but had never heard of this one.  Mary paid a fee to the agency, who sent an aide to her dadâs home but her financial dealings with the agency ended there. She paid the aide directly in cash.  I cautioned Mary that she didnât really know anything about the agency or the person they were sending but she said she interviewed the woman, who seemed pleasant enough.  And Mary was in a bind because Dad had run out of money so she was paying out of her own pocked.  Now the aide she had found herself and whom had stayed with Dad for 3 years was going back to her native country.  Mary needed to find someone quickly and cost was a real issue.

What happened after one month was Maryâs worst nightmare.  On one of her daily visits to Dadâs home she found him bruised and battered, in a semiconscious state.  He had been beaten by the aide, who claimed not to know what happened.  Mary called the police. They immediately arrested the aide and Dad was transported to the hospital.

Upon further investigation, Mary discovered that the agency was neither licensed nor insured.  The owner disappeared, probably to reappear under another agency name.   And unfortunately Dadâs injuries were of a severity that he could no longer stay at home, but needed nursing home care.  Mary felt terrible, but her predicament is hardly uncommon.  When trying to make ends meet safety was compromised.  Bringing a complete stranger into a home to care for a defenseless senior should not be taken lightly.  Background checks must be done.  Training is important.  There is a reason going through a reputable agency is more expensive.

However, if a long term care plan had been put in place, well before Dad needed care, perhaps Mary would not have been strapped for cash.  Dad would have the money to pay for his own care, maybe government benefits could have been tapped to help out. Mary would then have hired the licensed agency, safety precautions would have been taken, and a tragedy could have been avoided.