Background Checks

The Importance of Background Checks on In-Home Caregivers

Workers who provide personal services are a growing demographic in the US economy. During the pandemic, Americans grew to rely on delivery services for groceries, meals and staples. After the return to normal, these services continue to grow, with providers offering everything from ride sharing, laundry services, task management and more. An emerging sector in the personal services workforce are home care assistants.

At the last count in 2022, about 17% of the US population is over 65 years old: by 2050 that will increase to 22%. One survey found 90% of this demographic prefers to ride out their golden years aging at home, rather than an assisted living or senior facility. To do so, many need assistance for personal and household chores, as well as rudimentary home-health service.

Home caregivers and home health providers offer a range of services. The basics include attending to the user’s physical and dietary needs, small household cleaning and  laundry services; taking the customer to appointments or shopping excursions. More advanced services include checking vitals, administering medicines, attending to wounds and more. These tasks help the client remain in their home, pose less of a burden on family members, and allow the customer to maintain their independence.

Demand outpaces supply

To provide these services, home care companies must rely on a large amount of workers. Birth rates, steadily declining since 1980, show there are, and will continue to be, fewer workers available to service an aging population.

In 2022, AARP reported there were approximately 2.3 million home and personal aide workers in the US, with the industries expected to grow at a higher rate than all other occupations through 2032. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates growth of 25% by 2031, with over 700,000 openings on average each year during the next decade.

One report suggests the number of workers to provide elder care will increase by 40% by 2040 to maintain the status quo. About 13.5 million new workers will be needed to assist the estimated 70% of Americans over 65 who will need some form of services or support. They anticipate a shortage of over 150,000 workers by 2030 and over 350,000 by 2040.

For employers, the need to find qualified workers that can provide care without incurring risk to the client and the organization has never been more important. Worker shortages put more pressure on companies to hire: but hiring the wrong employee can mean risk to the client and the organization.

Aging at home risks

There are three main types of caregivers that service clients in their home: personal care aides, home health workers and certified nursing assistants. While each has a specific role and limitations on what services they can provide, all spend significant time in the client’s home and develop a relationship with them. Because their customers are elderly, isolated or infirm, they can be, unfortunately, preyed upon by unscrupulous workers. For employers, client abuse may mean the organization is at risk if proper screening and oversight hasn’t been taken.

There are several types of elder abuse: financial or theft, where the caregiver accesses and uses the client’s financial records, checkbooks or credit cards. There may be direct theft of property from the home, including cash, jewelry or other goods. Identity theft can also be a risk, if the caregiver uses the client’s financial status to open bank accounts, secure loans or credit cards.

Caregivers may even manipulate or defraud the elderly to change their will or estate plans to benefit the caregiver. Some suggest, probably grossly underreported, elder financial abuse and fraud costs older Americans between $2.6 and $36.5 billion per year.

If the client is isolated, with no close friends or family who visit frequently, physical abuse or neglect may also be a risk. For the client, these crimes can be devastating: for the service provider they may mean arrests, lawsuits and significant damage awards.

Keeping HOME CARE clients safe

There are laws at the federal level that prohibit elder abuse and financial exploitation. Many states are going beyond these statutes and requiring background screening for caregivers. In Wisconsin, an in-depth background check is required: they also have a list of disqualifying convictions that prohibit hiring of some individuals.

California has a similar law for community care organizations that require a background check and list of non-exemptible offences that disqualify a worker from providing these services. Massachusetts ‘ban the box’ law prohibits asking about criminal arrests or convictions in hiring but exempts some types of offenses for businesses that hire caregivers.

As the population continues to age and instances of abuse or neglect continue to make headlines, it’s anticipated more states will require stricter background screening for any individual who proves in-home care. For providers, being ahead of this trend may mean minimizing exposure for their company and its clients.

Background checks mitigate risk

Even if the state you do business currently has no requirement to screen potential hires, the risk remains. Family members of clients who are defrauded or abused could easily point to the convenience and ease to perform even a cursory background check, which could have minimized the risk to their loved ones. Lawsuits against private agencies and even states are emerging when the client is put at risk.

Clients, whether the customer themselves or their family members, will likely demand screening has occurred for anyone welcomed into the home. For businesses, background checks for home care providers are a must.

Background checks offer insight into whether or not the prospective caregiver has a criminal record, with a focus on violent acts or anger management issues. They can determine whether a candidate has significant financial issues that may suggest an inclination to defraud the client.

Social media screening may discern whether the potential hire has a compassionate or indifferent nature. Home care provider services can assure their clients every worker welcomed into their, or their loved one’s, home has been vetted before they come through the door. The negligible time and cost of each screening adds peace of mind for the customer, and a higher level of protection for the provider and their organization.

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