Private Home Health Aides

Private Home Health Aides: Don’t Let The Fox In The Hen House

Let’s face it; it is very expensive to hire a home health aide to care for a loved one. It is not unusual to pay a licensed Home Health Care Agency or Registry between $16 and $20 per hour for a Certified Nursing Assistant or Home Care Aide. Assisted Living Facilities in Florida and Nursing Home fees are less than the cost of full-time, around the clock care givers.

Understandably, most seniors want to avoid living in an Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Home for as long as possible. Some seniors actually ask their children to promise to never “put them in a nursing home”. Those same parents often do not have the financial resources available for their children keep this promise.

When seniors require home health care, the family or professional advocate may worry about the expense. They seek less expensive, equal alternatives. Licensed, bonded and insured Home Health Agencies and Registries must charge competitive rates in order to assure that their care givers are properly trained and pass a background check. Licensed agencies are monitored by the government agencies who accredit them. In a Home Health Agency organization, a Director of Nurses provides direct supervision of the home health aides. The home health aide is accountable to be on time to provide professional service and to be honest. If the home health aide is ever found to be unreliable or dishonest, the agency or registry can replace the aide quickly. All of these precautions are for the protection of the consumer who may be vulnerable and or living alone.

It is falsely assumed that a private home health aide who works for herself will be a less expensive care giver. Many private aids are referred to cost conscious families by well-intentioned friends. A doctor, Elder Law lawyer or professional advocate would NEVER refer an unlicensed, un-supervised home health care aide to their client. Un-supervised, unaffiliated home health aides are a major source of financial exploitation and abuse of the elderly.  Many private aids have set up their own unlicensed network of care giver friends and family. If something goes wrong, they are not accountable. They can simply disappear and have no license to lose. The only entity that can legally coordinate and refer home health care givers for a fee is a state licensed Home Health Care Agency or Registry.

Concerned families come to an Elder Law firm to learn about Veteran and Medicaid programs to help pay for the cost of facility care. Families are willing to learn about facility care because they may have first hired a private home care aide and now have a terrible story to tell. It is not uncommon to hear families lament about a private aid who is robbing them blind. The families are embarrassed to admit they don’t want to fire the stealing side because their parent “loves her”. That same aid does not show up on time but commands a full salary in cash…under the table.  One home health aide asked for the family to pay for expensive car repairs threatening that if they refused to pay, she would not be able to drive to work the next day. Over time, some families come to feel obligated to solve every problem for their private aide. Somehow money is always the solution to the aide’s problems. One family reported that they made exorbitant loans to their private aide, but it was okay because “mom has lots of money”. Why would anyone allow their parent to be taken advantage of, even if they could afford it? How could they let someone so unscrupulous get close to their parent?

The potential for abuse is not limited to financial exploitation. Frail, or emotionally vulnerable seniors are at high risk for physical abuse and neglect. Private aides can become territorial and come to believe that the client’s home is their home too. They may let their friends and family take over the home. One private aid who lived with a senior allied her boyfriend to visit at night. One night, the client awoke to find a man in her home fighting with her aide. This man was the boyfriend of the aide and during the argument he physically assaulted the aide and the client who ultimately suffered fractures of both eye sockets.

There is an old but very true saying that ” You get what you pay for”. The risk of exploitation, neglect and abuse is never worth the one or two dollars less that a private aide may charge. In fact, in some cases, the private aides charge their clients the same rates as the licensed agencies and registries.

Whether you are a concerned adult child or professional advocate it would be wise to pay for a reputable Home Health Care Agency or Registry and save money in another area.

Being a true Advocate means protecting vulnerable seniors from those who would prey upon them and having the fortitude to fire anyone who is not working in their best interest. Contact us today for more information.

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