California has repeatedly failed to implement regulations for non-medical in-home care providers, whether the care is being provided through an agency or privately. Families seeking non-medical care for their elderly or disabled loved ones through agencies or private advertisements are left without a means to know for sure exactly what type of person is providing such care.
An April 2011 study of in-home care in California prompted the California Legislature to implement tighter regulations. The study showed that elder adults seeking in-home care through agencies and private advertisements were often abused and/or neglected by caregivers with criminal records. Caregivers with criminal backgrounds were being selected by agencies who failed to conduct thorough background investigations or placed caregivers regardless of their criminal backgrounds. Families seeking care through private advertisement, such as Craigslist, were falling victim to caregivers who fail to disclose their criminal backgrounds.
Agencies and caregivers that provide elder adults and people with disabilities with custodial care – assistance with bathing, dressing, toileting, and other activities of daily living – are now required to have more than just a business license. On October 13, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act of 2013. This act establishes a licensing program for home care organizations, requiring that the aides they employ undergo background checks, basic training, and tuberculosis screening. The Department of Social Services will also provide a registry that will allow consumers to verify whether the caregiver working in their home has passed a background check. The Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act goes into effect on January 1, 2015 giving agencies plenty of time to comply with the new requirements.
In the meantime, there are several things you can do to protect yourself and loved ones in need of in-home care:
1. Request criminal background checks through the Department of Justice for all potential privately hired caregivers.
2. Question the background check process agencies use to screen their caregivers if using an agency.
3. Interview several potential caregivers before hiring.
4. Request references from potential caregivers and carefully check all references.
5. Have family or friends check in on you sporadically when the caregiver is present.
6. If you don’t feel comfortable with your new caregiver, speak up. Nobody wants to feel uncomfortable in their own home.