Providing Home Care Services Successfully by Preventing Caregiver Theft in the Home …
… requires a tremendous amount of trust from all parties. When an agency is careless about preventing caregiver theft in the home, it isn’t a matter of if it will happen — it’s a matter of when.
Clients trust the agency, among so many reasons, to provide care with honesty; the agency trusts their care managers and caregivers to, again among so many reasons, be ethical and honest. The tremendous part reflects clients who often in a vulnerable state of health while complete strangers are entering their home providing care. Clients must trust your agency to be responsible and honest in their homes!
Agency reputation is built on trust. Trust begins with each and every client trusting your agency will perform care services as represented at the assessment when they sign contract. Agency owners trust every employed caregiver and staff member on the team (following a completed background check) as upstanding, reliable, honest and ethical as the report discloses. Caregivers and staff trust that the agency will follow through on the employment commitments made when hired. Trust is the foundation of an agency’s existence.
When the trust is violated, it affects more than one or two people: the client, their family, agency owners, management, care staff and the reputation of all. For most private duty agencies hiring properly (i/e: checking backgrounds and digging deep into an applicant’s history) 95-99% of you’re caregivers are honest, ethical and upstanding individuals. The white elephant that sits in many home care offices: Caregiver Theft in the home of the client.
If your agency has been in business for more than a year or two, you’ve undoubtedly experienced a client who has made allegations of theft by a caregiver. When the issue comes up for the first time it’s often following a phone call from a client or family member making the unexpected accusation. If that’s when you’ve begun to think about it – you’re too late! Every agency should have a mitigation plan, i/e: proper hiring followed by insurance. Expect the probability before it happens in hopes to prevent it.
Caregiver Theft Happens!
It takes just one publicized incident and your agency’s reputation is dragged through dirt with no guarantee if it is restore-able. The fact remains that you can do thorough background checks and still, an unscrupulous employee that’s determined to steal is going to do just that.
Here’s just a dose of what the news can and will feed on with a story of caregiver theft:
How to Address Caregiver Theft in the Home
Define Your Policy On Theft:
- Establish procedures for minimizing care providers handling of cash or financial transactions, if at all. If caregivers must have a hand in it, establish a family member that monitor accounts regularly.
- Put a policy in writing that your agency reports elder financial abuse and work closely with authorities to prosecute any kind of theft in the workplace.
- Emphasize the strong policy against theft and communicate it to your staff regularly.
- Have every staff member sign a copy of the policy, indicating they understand, accept and promise to abide by it.
- Use a pre-paid card for the caregiver to use instead of a bank account card/credit card.
- Communicate the home care agency’s stand on the issue of theft from clients (or anyone for that matter)?
Make sure your bonding policy is up to date.
- Have a bonding policy of no less than $25K per occurrence. More if you’re serving clients with great wealth. Think about how small rings, necklaces, etc. can be: concealable and not checked everyday.
- Understand how much the coverage is for.
- Obtain ALL details of the policy and what to do in event of a loss/claim.
- Perform Thorough, Well Documenteof d Background Checks!
The reality of background checks are that if nothing is found:
- You have a candidate who is ethical and would never consider theft. (Yeaah!)
- You found someone who hasn’t been caught yet.
- You hired someone who never would consider theft, but in a tough economy (or any tough circumstanced situation) something changes and ethics they once had, felt they had no other choice.
With all this effort, you still may experience the unfortunate phone call. When you get that call alleging theft in a client’s home, questions amass around the reality that almost seems unbelievable:
- How could I be addressing caregiver theft in the home better?
- What did I overlook?
- How long has this been happening?
- Did the Caregiver really do something like this?
- She/He seemed so honest!
Caregiver Theft Has Been Alleged
Assure the client you will investigate.
Your client needs to know that you take this seriously. It starts by listening, and reassuring them you’ll do all you can to resolve the issue.
Don’t jump to conclusions.
Many a case has been brought up of theft only to find that the asset thought to be missing has been misplaced. Clients with memory loss (Alzheimer’s, Dementia, etc) can become confused and even paranoid where nothing has happened. Also, remember that crafty thieves also prey on the aura of uncertainty especially with memory loss patients.
Don’t accuse a caregiver simply because a client says it’s occurred.
It can create a mess and the client might not be right. Ask questions, and see #4. If it’s family making the accusation, you must ask questions. Family dynamics come into play and (unfortunately) sometimes greed is looking for a fast buck, having nothing to do with caregivers actions.
Contact the authorities and work closely with detectives.
Get in front of it and take action. Doing so goes a long way towards maintaining credibility and showing clients you are serious about any accusations.
Accusations of theft by clients is never a pleasant situation. When a preplanned mitigation program exists with thought through policies in advance, rest well knowing that if it does happen your agency is prepared to handle the situation with diligence, seriousness and care.
Are you addressing caregiver theft in the Home? What did you do?
I’d love to hear from you and invite your remarks.
To Your Success!