Dangers of home health care

Most families have probably heard rumors about home health care aides taking advantage of their patients financially.

I know had heard said rumors for years and believed them to be hyperbolic tales from privileged individuals, fearful that someone with less means would have such intent.

This week I learned of a Virginia home health care aide who is currently in jail and charged with identity and account theft of her patients.

I am no longer surprised when I read such a tale as my family went through an experience a few years ago where a home health care aide attempted to defraud my Mother. I won’t get into the details but I will set the stage. My mother is young, totally aware of and in control of her finances, bills, etc. The home health aide did not have access to any account statements, or documents. She was however, a good conversationalist and interested listener. She gained intimate details about my Mother, her life, her family and certainly played on my mother’s compassionate side. Only after a week, she had accepted cash and designed a fraudulent scheme so detailed and perfect, my Mother was minutes away from wiring money over the phone.

Fast forward a few years, and I remain so fearful for families who must trust strangers to care for their loved ones.

I am not saying there isn’t a place for home health. There is, and thousands of us rely on these businesses every day. What I am saying is that we as consumers of health care, need to be smart, and take care not expose our already vulnerable loved ones.

Here are our recommendations when hiring home health:

1. CORPORATE STATUS

Ask for the corporate name and state of incorporation for the business. You may find the business is not incorporated, which means they are not licensed.

2. LICENSES

Always ask to see their current license to practice home health in the state. Don’t take their word they are “licensed.” Home health is health care and requires more than a local business license.

3. INSURANCE

Ask about insurance.  How much do they have? What does it cover?

4. REFERENCES

Get a reference for each and every person who walks in the door. If you don’t like one aide or nurse, tell the agency not to send them again. You are a consumer, and you do have choice.

5. DON’T SHARE PERSONAL INFORMATION

Many home health care providers would prefer to work without an agency. Meaning, they would rather you just call them in directly for care. This saves you money and usually means more for them. If they have access to your home number, for example, you may get many calls offering this “additional services.” Be aware, you probably signed a contract with the agency which prohibits this side work. God knows the aide likely did!

6. LOCK UP FILING CABINETS AND FINANCIAL RECORDS

That includes the mail! Lock it up – have it sent somewhere else. All you need is a bank statement to wipe out someone’s life savings.

7. NOTIFY CREDIT CARDS and CREDIT AGENCIES that your loved one is not a shopper, so keep an eye out

It did raise a red flag to my Mother’s credit card company when she signed up for an online dating service. Suffice it to say it was a fraudulent charge. BUT, unless you notify the company your loved one is disabled and not shopping much, this type of expenditure wont be a surprise.

8. ASK FOR BACKGROUND CHECKS

And ask the agency if they are multi-state, or just their state. In my family’s case, the aide who tried to defraud my Mother was a convicted felon in another state, but the local agency only did single state searches. DEMAND BETTER.

9. BE INVOLVED

Many of us life far away and are not able to pop by to check on home health folks. We can however call and ask them for updates, discuss care and condition, etc.

10. TRUST YOUR GUT

If something doesn’t feel right about an aide or an agency – trust your gut and move on.

If we can help you with an action involving home health care in Virginia, please call us today: 540-985-0098.

By: Natesh Ramasamy
By: Natesh Ramasamy

 

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Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.