Lax Licensing Procedures for Home Care Providers Leave Seniors Vulnerable

By Michael Klazema on 9/27/2018
The US has a record population of senior citizens, and this trend is set to continue as more of the Baby Boomers and subsequent generations reach retirement age. With this growing population of older individuals comes several challenges, especially considering longer average lifespans. Greater longevity often means more age-related health concerns, and many seniors prefer to continue living in the homes they own rather than entering an assisted care facility. 

The result has been a boom in the in-home care sector. According to a report by the Boston Globe, this rise has been accompanied by an increase in theft, abuse, and other incidents at the hands of those entrusted with elder care.

Some of the crimes committed by caregivers are billed as relatively minor—for instance, the theft of prescription medication—while others have led to the loss of tens of thousands of dollars, draining away the life savings of seniors. In one case reported on by the Globe, an independent caregiver advertising through a Massachusetts state website had more than a dozen criminal incidents in her past. Because there are no nationally-mandated background checks or licensing requirements to provide in-home care, the individual in question was able to gain employment. She then used her position to open fraudulent credit card accounts, make unauthorized withdrawals, and commit other offenses that harmed her charge.

Fewer than half (17 in total) of the nation’s states require federal background checks similar to those available through Some, like California, mandate checks and keep an accessible database of approved care aides. 

Massachusetts, like many other states, is home to a largely unregulated caregiving gray market. Even criminal prosecution of abusers rarely results in outcomes seniors and their families find acceptable, with low-level penalties and suspended sentences common occurrences. 

Though many have campaigned for more stringent rules and regulations, legislatures have been slow to act. The Globe notes that while agencies can sometimes yield safer caregiving options, engaging an agency does not guarantee vetting. In one incident, a man with ongoing criminal proceedings was hired through a familial relationship with a caregiving agency operator. He then stole more than $40,000 in cash and personal items, many of which were never recovered.

For those in need of in-home care for their own benefit or a loved one’s, completing due diligence may be the only way to guarantee vetting procedures take place before a caregiver’s hire. Instead of hiring someone based on their word, using the reports compiled by can help to foster confidence. Services such as reference checks, employment verification, and a broad look at criminal records through the US OneSEARCH can deliver useful reports. By knowing more about who it is you are inviting into your home to administer sensitive, you can help to reduce your exposure to some of the biggest risks in this growing industry.

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