Homecare: Avoid Elder Fraud & Abuse

Instances of fraud and abuse concerning elderly people are more common than you think. It can include anything from taking advantage of a person financially to inflicting emotional, physical and/or psychological harm. It's imperative to perform a thorough background check before hiring a caregiver for your loved one. The following are a few guidelines to follow when you have caregivers working in your home.

Financial Matters

  • Keep financial records and valuables in a secure place. This includes ATM cards, credit cards and check books.
  • Make sure mail is only collected by someone you trust.
  • Check the phone bill to ensure no unauthorized calls have been made.
  • Review banking and credit statements to ensure no fraudulent charges have occurred.

Protecting Yourself

If you have homeowner's coverage, contact your insurance agent to see what kind of theft your policy covers and whether you can extend coverage to include specific items within the home. Your agent will also be able to tell you what type of workmen's comp policy you may need for caregivers who work in your home.

An employee can carry a bond that insures his or her fidelity to you as an employer. These bonds are known as dishonesty or fidelity bonds, trade guarantee bonds and various other names, depending on the broker and location. Caregivers will need to contact an independent bond broker.

Elder Abuse

Open lines of communication can make a world of difference. Check in with your loved one regularly to make sure he or she is happy with the caregivers. Caregivers who can speak to you about difficult or stressful situations, such as combativeness, are less likely to have built-up frustration. If you suspect abuse, speak with your loved one immediately and install monitoring devices. There are lots of unobtrusive camera models that don't even look like a camera. Many were developed to check on nannies and are known as "nanny cams."

Signs of abuse can include the following:

  • Unexplained personality changes
  • Unexplained bruises, burns and/or fractures
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • An unkempt or unhygienic environment
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Refusal by the elder to communicate

If you are able to confirm any sort of abuse, remove the caregiver as soon as possible and contact the National Center on Elder Abuse, which will provide you with information on who to contact in your state.