Caring for elder loved ones as they age is as essential to us as it was to them when they cared for us. While bedsores, fall from beds, dehydration or malnourishment are often the most common problems associated with nursing homes and home health aide agencies, a shocking new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reveals that many home health aide agencies recruit random strangers off the website, Craigslist, and place them in the homes of vulnerable elderly people. These agencies fail to perform national criminal background checks or drug testing, lie about testing the qualifications of caregivers, require no experience and provide no real training. This disturbing new trend is leaving our elder loved ones exposed to criminals, drug addicts, and people not qualified to be caregivers. This can often times result in nursing home abuse and neglect.

Further, as Americans live longer, the problem is only increasing. A recent National Health Statistics Report (NHSR) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites projections that employment of home health aides will rise by 50 percent between 2008 and 2018 — from 921,000 to 1,382,000. Yet there are no standards or regulations set by the federal government, and state regulations differ quite substantially. Many agencies take advantage of the state discrepancies and hire caregivers at their whim. Of the 180 agencies researchers surveyed in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society study, only 55 percent of the agencies conducted federal criminal background checks and only one-third of agencies interviewed had administered drug tests. Without question nursing home and other agencies have a profound responsibility to take care for people who cannot take care of themselves. The flagrant statistics from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society are nothing less than appalling.

So what to do you may ask when you will not be able to take care of an elder loved one on your own and need the assistance of a nursing home or agency. One of the most important things you can do is research the nursing home or agency to make sure it is reputable. Some of the better agencies conduct thorough background checks, random drug test, and run fingerprints through the FBI database. A well-trained home health aide is much more likely to notice changes in a patient’s behavior or well-being and act immediately and appropriately. This can make all the difference. In addition, if your family member has suffered a serious injury in a nursing home or assisted living facility, we encourage you to seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

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