Congress Eyes Improvements for Background Checks in Senior Care

The senior care industry is a multi-billion dollar space. By some estimates, the total value of such services approaches more than $60 billion annually. Yet despite all of this money, serious concerns remain about senior living facilities and those organizations offering assistive care. Issues with facility quality persist, standards of living, and more. Even safety is a major concern in the face of harrowing tales of elder abuse.

Most families expect that any elder caregiver will have a background check performed on them before they begin working. Unfortunately, that's not always true, even in states where laws mandate such efforts. Not every facility devotes the time or resources to proper vetting when filling their job roles. Even those that do may not be as thorough in vetting a senior caregiver as they should be.

There are other barriers for nursing and care home operators, too—lacking access to the correct information can make it easy for some bad actors to slip through the cracks. Recognizing this as a serious problem, a bipartisan group of legislators in the United States Congress have sponsored a new bill to create a more robust, more capable framework for vetting elder caregiver applicants.

Titled the "Ensuring Seniors’ Access to Quality Care Act," the proposed law would make some significant changes. Foremost among these alterations would be a long-overdue authorization for senior homes to access the federal National Practitioner Data Bank. This database tracks reported medical malpractice incidents, license violations or revocations, and other serious adverse incidents in a medical professional's career.

By finally allowing senior organizations to run applicant information through this database, it is possible to analyze more mission-critical information. Someone who engages in wrongdoing in one state and loses their license might try moving to another state and starting over. Unfortunately, thus far, it has been easy for such individuals to "fly under the radar" and potentially harm others again. With access to the NPDB, legislators hope fewer of these oversights will occur.

The law will also remove some barriers to federal training programs and other resources that care facilities can use to improve the quality of their staff.

Should the bill pass, it will be vital for elder care facilities nationwide to reshape their background check policies to take advantage of the change. A comprehensive background check for such workers is crucial. These checks should include license and education verification, reference checking, and a thorough criminal background check. Adding the option to check a federal database of medical wrongdoers will be a significant step towards better outcomes.

Senior care providers must take their mission seriously. Safeguarding the vulnerable begins with smart, strong hiring processes that look at candidates from every possible angle. As this new legislation works its way through congressional committees, nursing homes and other healthcare administrators should watch this proposal with care—and an eye towards updating policies quickly to keep senior citizens safe.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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