The main goal of a quality home care agency is to protect clients from fraud or abuse with open communication, a detailed plan of care, supervised and screened employees, proper training and responsive managers. Even the use of cameras in the home or assisted living may help the client and family feel more secure. 

Take the example from an elderly woman living in an assisted living community in Lemon Grove.  Each week, she noticed money disappearing from her room. She never noticed anyone taking her items, and people she questioned knew nothing about it. She was losing sleep, wondering if early dementia was fogging up her thoughts. “Am I imaging that I am losing things?” she thought to herself.

When she mentioned her concern to her daughter, the young woman placed a hidden camera in her mother’s room. Sure enough, the video showed the janitor walking into the room at night, opening up the safe and taking the elderly woman’s belongings.

Then Assistant Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood related that story during a meeting of the North County Estate Planning Council. The focus of the meeting was Exploitation to Abuse: Spotting and Dealing with the Dangerous Threats to Our Aging Clients. Greenwood said the Lemon Grove case, the judge sentenced the janitor to 270 days in custody when the victim testified, “I thought I had dementia, this caused not only financial harm but emotional harm as well.”

Supporting client use of cameras in the home is one way that a quality home care agency can promote client safety and security. The management staff of At Home Nursing Care is aware that about 25% of our clients or their family members install cameras in the home. Our philosophy is that it protects the client, our caregivers and the agency by showing what we did and what we didn’t do. Anything that gives our families peace of mind we applaud.

Greenwood explained that financial abuse is committed by caregivers paid and unpaid, and sadly the perpetrators are most often members of the family. “Who is doing the abuse?” he said, “The son, the grandson, the hired caregiver who got too close.”

Greenwood described elder financial abuse as any instance when someone over age 65 is deprived of their property. It’s a felony if the loss is greater than $950, anything less is a misdemeanor. 

He described another case which led to changes in banking laws in 2003. In that case, a limo driver picked up a woman from the skilling nursing facility where she was living in Encinitas. The limo driver took the woman to the bank, where he asked her to liquidate an account and provide him with a $97,000 cashier’s check. The bank teller didn’t do much to investigate the transaction; instead she asked the limo driver who he was. He claimed he was the woman’s attorney and the check was payment. As suspicious as it seemed, the teller processed the transaction.

That case was one that led to changes in banking law where all bank employees, including bank tellers, are now mandated reporters. If they see something suspicious, they must report it to Adult Protective Services. 

Home Care agencies, including their caregiving staff, also fall into the mandated reporter category. Failing to report suspected abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor. Medical providers such as doctors and nurses are also mandated reporters. They must alert APS, Adult Protective Services, if they suspect potential wrong doing.

Ways a family and quality in home care agency can work together to protect clients include using a re-loadable debit card for regular household expenses, making sure online banking has a secure password and that accounts are regularly checked by an appropriate person, such as a bookkeeper or trusted family member.  No home care employee should be accessing a client’s online bank account, we refer bill paying to reputable fiduciaries or bookkeepers. 

A quality home care agency should also be willing to alert family members of irregularities, such as bills going unpaid, scam phone calls being answered or confusion related to money. 

While it’s impossible to promise no wrongdoing will occur, a quality home care company mitigates the risk by hiring quality caregivers, supervising them at regular intervals and making sure the family is aware of anything unusual that we notice.  While it may seem to some that hiring in home care the correct way is more costly, doing the wrong thing often ends up costing more.