Caregiver Theft in the Home Growing
Caregiver theft in the home is sadly becoming more common. The rapidly growing elderly population are staying in their homes, allowing essentially strangers into their home for care.
The amount of trust some elderly place in their caregivers leaves them vulnerable. And unfortunately, some caregivers take advantage of that trust and steal from clients.
When Theft In The Home Does Happen
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. Whether you’re an agency or a family member just learning a theft occurred, it’s often a shock with disbelief that a caregiver stealing from your clients could happen to you.
Trust –> Violated!
When trust of care staff is violated, it affects more than one or two people: the client, their family, agency owners, management, care staff and the reputation of all. Trust is the foundation of every agency’s existence and reputation is built on trust. Clients trust your agency perform safe, honest, experienced care services as represented during the Assessment when the family signed your contract. As an Agency owner, you generally trust employees on the team as upstanding, reliable, honest and ethical ( following completed background checks). Caregivers and office staff trust that your agency to follow through on employment commitments made when hired.
For most private duty agencies hiring properly (i/e: using thorough background checks and digging deep into an applicant’s history), 95-99% of you’re caregivers are honest, ethical and upstanding individuals! Unfortunately, there is still a white elephant that sits in many home care offices called “Caregiver Theft in the home of a client”.
Unfortunately, it is happening more. Everywhere! At the time of posting this update, below is a small example of what the media feed on with a story of caregiver theft in the home:
- Home health care worker charged in theft
Woman pleads guilty to stealing more than $50K from residents
Parma Heights home health aide charged with stealing more than $600K from elderly people
Small-town home health aide a big-time mob associate
$30K swiped by home health care worker
Caregiver stripped on video for 85-year-old. He wanted to leave her ‘everything,’ http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article211256714.html
How Important is Your Agency’s Reputation?
It only takes one publicized incident for your agency’s reputation to be dragged through dirt with no guarantee it’s repairable. The true examples listed above should have every owner well aware to be prepared BEFORE it happens. For any agency that is careless or aloof about steps to prevent caregiver theft in the home, it isn’t a matter of IF it will happen — it’s a matter of WHEN.
Your company’s reputation is worth creating policies and taking steps to prevent stealing from the elderly, and being being prepared in the event it does happen! The best approach is to be prepared and take action before it happens in efforts to prevent it.
How to Prevent 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.
- We offer a comprehensive Caregiver’s Policy & Procedures Manual which contains a strong theft policy.
- 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 Insurance bonding policy is up to date.
- Have a bonding policy of no less than $25K per occurrence. We recommend $50-100K, more if you’re serving clients with great wealth. Think about how small rings, necklaces, etc. can be: concealable and not checked everyday. Rings and necklaces can easily be valued at above $25K.
- Work with your insurance agent to ensue the requirements to a successful claim.
- Understand the what, when, who, where and 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 Documented Background Checks!
At a minimum, check with your insurance provider and find out all the background checks required to meet insurance requirements. Next, make sure you follow the state law requirements for caregivers working with elderly or children. Did the candidate live in another state? Every State treats police and criminal records release differently. Dig into those previous states.
If nothing is found on the background check, it could mean:
- The applicant IS ethical and would never consider theft.
- Normally the applicant wouldn’t consider stealing, but faced with a tough life situation – something changes. The ethics she/he once held to, felt no other choice but to violate.
- Applicant hasn’t been caught yet.
When Caregiver Theft Has Been Alleged
If you’re in business long enough, you may still 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!
Assure the client you will investigate.
The client and his/her family need to know that you take the theft accusations seriously! It starts by listening, and reassuring them you’ll do all you can to resolve the issue.
Don’t jump to conclusions. Stay Neutral
Just because an accusation is made or something is missing, doesn’t mean theft occurred. Many a time, theft accusations turn out to be the missing item was simply misplaced. Additionally, clients with memory loss (Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc) can become confused and even paranoid where nothing has happened. It can create a mess and the client might may or may not be right. Alternatively, crafty thieves also prey on the aura of uncertainty commonly found with memory loss patients.
Responding to accusations in a neutral manner will help enormously as the process of dealing with the situation unfolds.
Ask questions, and see #3. 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 investigators & family
Get in front of it and take action! Determine the accusation is true and if it is, contact the local authorities. Put law enforcement in charge of investigations, they’re professionals and it shows clients and staff how serious any accusations are! Remain neutral and work with the authorities in their investigation.
Be responsive and ready to provide a new caregiver for the client. Continue to work with the client/family and authorities through the investigation. Yes, there’s a good chance the client won’t want to continue with your services.
Contact Your Insurance Provider
If you’re certain theft has occurred and one of your caregivers are responsible, contact your insurance broker and attorney if necessary. If you’ve set up your bonding policy as part a theft mitigation policy, reimbursing the clients’ loss shouldn’t be a problem.
Theft accusations by clients are never a pleasant situation. Understand sometimes, if someone is hell-bent on stealing, they will find a way. The best way to respond to accusations to Caregiver theft in the home is to have a crisis response policy in place, in advance.
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!