Quality Senior Caregiver Training Helps Avoid Senior Fraud

The number one type of senior abuse is actually financial.  A report this week on Creditcards.com notes that victims lost an estimated $2.9 billion dollars in 2009, which is an increase over previous years.  Definitely difficult economic conditions help to contribute to more theft. 

How do you prevent financial abuse of elders?  The best way is to make sure you have all the financial assets in order with more than one additional person responsible for reviewing the activity.  Seniors and their families should also only hire professional senior care companies to provide care services.  This will insure the proper systems are in place that will include active management of a caregiver and training for the caregiver.  It is very easy for a professional care manager to set-up systems to make sure that a caregiver does not have access to financials and that any petty cash is properly tracked.

Families also will be paying the necessary payroll taxes and worker's compensation insurance (required by law) when hiring a professional senior care company to provide care in the home or in a senior living facility.

It is also important to review nursing homes that a senior may be placed in for short-term rehabilitation after a hospital stay.  As these nursing homes do receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, it is important to know that they have various levels of actual Certified Nursing Aides staffed.  The care is only as good as the staff and sometimes there is not enough staff available to adequately care for the number of residents.  If one resident has a toileting accident during the night, the aide could spend their entire morning with that resident. 

Learn about the staff-to-resident ratio of nursing homes in Caregiverlist's nursing home ratings directory and find out the quality standards necessary when hiring a senior home care agency.

Professional caregivers also receive training to help them be alert for any financial elder abuse activities, which unfortunately are often by family members.  As professional caregivers are doing the work as a career, they want to maintain their reputation and when employed through a licensed senior home care agency, they will notify the agency if they see anything inappropriate.

As the owner of a senior home care agency for 7 years (I sold it to a national company to focus on Caregiverlist), there were probably 2 new senior clients a month who had been experiencing financial elder abuse by a family member or a hire-direct caregiver.  Sometimes the referrals came from another family member and sometimes from the court-appointed guardian.  We even had one lady who was in her 90's and had her care managed by her deceased husband's law firm.  They had opted to hire a direct-hire caregiver, trying to save a few bucks, and ironically, not pay all the necessary payroll benefits by doing an independent contractor situation.  When the senior was hospitalized, the lawyer at the law firm who was paying the bills realized the senior could not have gone to Home Depot while she was in the hospital.  That is when she suddenly realized there were thousands of dollars in purchases at Home Depot and Bloomingdales on credit cards that were opened by the caregiver.  And they also then discovered when they talked to the doorman of the senior's building that the caregiver did not spend the night with the senior.  This is when they picked up the phone and called the senior home care agency I owned.  It was also sad that the senior had not been receiving proper care.  Once we started services and began activities for each day incorporated into the care plan, the senior began doing better and even her niece, who lived in Kansas City (the senior was in Chicago) told us that she could tell her Aunt was happy again and her memory was better and she was enjoying watching her favorite television shows and she just couldn't believe the difference.  Neglect on an emotional level that comes with financial abuse can very much negatively impact physical health.

I saw the financial abuse happen at all income levels.  As senior care can be difficult - there are some grumpy old men and women out there and sometimes they have very good reason to be grumpy but when you care for them day after day, it can become exhausting.  Without a management team to help support a caregiver in these difficult situations, I believe even good caregivers can go bad.  They can begin to justify spending $20 on themselves when they go to the store to pick up items for the senior and then it just grows from there.

Separately, there are indeed what many refer to as "mafias" of hire-direct caregivers who are taught how to steal assets from a senior, even succeeding in signing over entire estates.  Especially in cases where a senior is lonely and not living near family and has lost close friends to death.  They will become trusting of the caregiver and if memory loss becomes involved, it can become extremely easy for a hire-direct caregiver to steal assets.

Just as you take your care to a reputable car repair shop for service or only go to the dealership because you know they will follow your warranty's recommended services, you should follow quality standards for senior care.  It is not at all like hiring a babysitter.  Mom and Dad are not there at the beginning and end of services and if you are paying cash across the table, you don't have protection for injuries for worker's compensation which are much more likely to happen with senior care than childcare, and you aren't contributing to payroll taxes giving the caregiver the ability to collect Unemployment Insurance and Social Security when the retire.  When you have a lifetime of assets, this is problem for you, too, if the caregiver does not pay taxes on their independent contractor pay.  Uncle Sam will come to you for this money and this does happen as my former agency had more than one new client who experienced this.  The caregiver can also sue the senior if they are injured on the job and this also does happen.  If you are going to hire a caregiver directly and pay them as an independent contractor, you need to be sure taxes are being paid, provide a daily plan of care and full support for the caregiver with active supervision, in order to be successful.  However, for the couple bucks an hour you think you are saving in doing this, you will be much better off if you hire a professional senior care company.  They will know how to properly train and supervise the care and make sure all the necessary systems are in place for paying bills and managing the household as well as the medical care.

Proper senior caregiver training does protect both the senior and the caregiver.  Caregiverlist''s 10-hour online training, powered by aQuire Training Solutions, a leader in training programs and testing for the senior care industry, created this training to meet the training standards for licensed senior care agencies in some states, including Illinois, meeting their department of health guidelines.  Most states still have no formal training requirements for companion senior care.  Individual caregivers may purchase the caregiver training and take the online test at their leisure, receiving certification upon passing at 80% pass rate.



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Comments (2) -

  • Yes, I also helped a neighbor who was being financially abused by her son.  It becomes very difficult once memory loss begins.  Everyone should set up a power-of-attorney with a second person to monitor all before they need care - really 3 people should be there for checks and balances.  It is just too sad to see this happen.
  • While you can't always prevent abuse when someone is determined to take advantage, when family members and others simply pay attention it can help a lot.

    One step to consider is a credit freeze.  When seniors won't need to open new credit cards or take out new loans, a credit freeze can make it a lot harder for someone else to do it in their names.

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