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Home Elder Care: Buyer, Beware
Date:7/13/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Many home aides who care for the elderly in the United States have no training and don't undergo stringent background checks or drug tests, a new study finds.

In some cases, the caregivers get no supervision from the agencies that hire and place them. Most agencies questioned said they recruit aides from advertisements, including Internet sites such as Craigslist, and some agencies appear to lie about their employees' screening or education, the researchers found.

"There are good caregivers and good agencies, but consumers need to understand that there are questions that you need to ask," said study lead author Dr. Lee Lindquist, an associate professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "You need to be discerning about whom you hire."

Her study looked at the qualifications of caregivers who visit the homes of the elderly to assist with daily activities such as dressing and meal preparation. "These are not nurses," Lindquist said. "These are caregivers, private duty attendants. They don't need any medical training."

They may be expected to help with nutrition assistance, housekeeping, and scheduling medical appointments. But legally, these often low-paid workers can't administer medicine, although they can remind their clients to take their pills, she said.

Without adequate quality control measures, the frail elderly may be vulnerable to abuse, fraud or neglect, experts say.

For the study, researchers posing as consumers hiring caregivers questioned 180 caregiver agencies in Illinois, California, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Wisconsin and Indiana -- states with large populations of elderly residents.

The study is published in the July 13 issue of the Journal of American Geriatrics Society.

Slightly more than half -- 56 percent -- of the agencies said they performed federal b
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