How can long-distance caregivers watch for signs of elder abuse from a home care worker?


Q: I live 3,000 miles away from my father and he needs live-in help, but I’m worried about elder abuse since I can’t be there to monitor the caregivers. What can I do to protect my father and feel more comfortable with hiring caregivers?

A: I would hire a Geriatric Care Manager (visit who lives very close to your father, who can be your ongoing eyes and ears in your absence. Make sure she/he has been a GERIATRIC care manager and has lived in that area for an extended period of time. Ask for five references of families she has worked with recently, check them all, and make sure you feel confident before hiring—you will be on the phone with her a lot.

The Geriatric Care Manger will go to your father's home and evaluate the entire situation and advise you on how/where to get everything in place for him. She will know the best live-in caregiver organizations in that area and probably be familiar with the directors and caregivers personally—so her recommendations will be of great value.

I would also install a "nanny-cam" so I could monitor my father's care and make sure the caregivers knew they were being observed everywhere in the home. You don't want to see a heartbreaking scene of someone abusing to your father after the fact--you want to do everything you can to prevent it. Your Geriatric Care Manager will know the best companies in the area who can install that for you.

And prior to anyone going into your father's home, you need to go there and make sure all valuables are locked up as you don't want any temptation in anyone's path. Pack up the jewelry, china, crystal, silver, and anything special you want to be sure to have after your father passes. Make sure you have a copy of his Will, Advance Directives, Living Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate--if he wants that), and all his important papers, phone numbers, account numbers, etc. Also, be sure to make friends with all the neighbors, exchange contact info, and ask for their help in checking on your father and letting you know what they observe.

Jacqueline Marcell cared for her elderly parents with Alzheimer's disease and authored "Elder Rage." She hosts the internet radio program "Coping With Caregiving." Read her full biography

Jacqueline Marcell is a former television executive who was so compelled by caring for her elderly parents (both with early Alzheimer's not diagnosed for over a year) she wrote "Elder Rage." She is also an international speaker on elder care and host of the popular Internet radio program "Coping With Caregiving."

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Hi Jacqueline,
Thank you for posting this article for those long distance from their loved ones who need care. I handled my mother's caregiving locally here in southern California over her final years but used a few agencies to place a daytime caregiver for her. I found very little screening of the caregivers through these agencies and conducted background checks on all since this is one of the services we offer. I found two with criminal backgrounds and one that actually had a mental disorder. Prevention is what I preach as once a caregiver is in place, it may be too late in some instances. My agency helps people at long distance from their loved ones by conducting background checks and "surprise" visits to homes and assisted living facilities. When an agency tells you that they will "be there" if anything goes wrong, it could also be an indication in my experience that they haven't done the due diligence before hiring. Ca. has some poor legislation that is behind other states in the assisted living arena so it is critically important to thoroughly investigate caregivers prior to placing them with your loved one. Ongoing maintenance can also pay dividends as Jacqueline suggested and as private investigators, we are experienced in placing covert "nanny" cams and being very discreet. Thanks again Jacqueline and best wishes to all that have loved ones in this situation.
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