Friday, March 07, 2008

Home, but not alone

…Writing in the AARP Bulletin (Mar 2008), Katherine Greider takes on the subject of trying to get elderly parents or loved ones good home care.

…Boy, has HA been there!

…HA’s father was wheelchair-bound from a stroke for 10 years. HA wrote an ad titled COULD THIS BE YOUR DREAM JOB? Apparently, many people thought so, but some of them saw it more as a dream opportunity, to steal, to sue. Her dad did have pretty good care for most of the time, but there were incidents.

…Especially, if you live at a distance, it is difficult to get reliable care. You really need to pop in and check up on what is going on. Or get someone to do it for you.

…Greider cites the case of someone who had their house ransacked by a “caregiver” who had not been properly background-checked.

…Regulators are now conducting a pilot program in seven states to check backgrounds more thoroughly—and almost 4% of those checked are wrong numbers. (Maybe some were like the sly cab driver who waltzed HA’s mother out of $50,000 before the kids caught on.)

…If you use an agency, see if it is Medicare-approved. If it is not Medicare-certified, see if they are licensed by the state (the place where HA’s Mom stays is).

…Get recommendations from geriatric care managers or from doctors (HA never had much luck there).

…Ask the agency lots of questions—who does the background checks, what do those checks amount to, how big a turnover do they have, are the aides salaried, do they get benefits, who checks on the aides?

…Who checks on the aides? You do! Come at unannounced times. Ask the patient about the care. Even people suffering from dementia can offer clues. Watch how the aides interact with the residents (at one place HA’s mother lived for only one month, the aides ever made eye contact and sat there watching TV).

…If you see things you don’t like, call your state’s home health care hotline, Greider says. Or the Medicare hotline at (800) 633-4227. Or go to and then to “home health.” Also check with the Better Business Bureau (

…Then cross your fingers.

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