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November 01, 2016

Risk management strategies for caregivers: Mission critical hiring practices

When someone hires an agency to supply a caregiver for their senior parent or other loved one, they expect to be provided with a trained, responsible, and experienced professional. After all, this is a big decision and a big expense for a family, and they want the best care for their loved ones. So they assume that by going through a professional agency, they’re getting a safe, responsible, trustworthy caregiver.

Sadly, that’s too often not the case.

In fact, using a home care agency to find a caregiver can give families a false sense of security about the skills, background, and experience of the caregiver they’re hiring to take care of their loved one.

That’s the finding of a 2011 research project conducted by the Feinburg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, and published in the January 2012 edition of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society. Researchers interviewed 180 home care companies in five states and questioned them about their recruiting, screening, and hiring practices.

What they found was disturbing:

  • Many home care agencies hire people who randomly respond to Craigslist ads, and some routinely lie to their clients about the skills, experience, and training their caregivers have.
  • Only 55 percent of agencies perform federal background checks, and only about a third of agencies conduct drug tests.
  • Over half (58.5 percent) rely on applicants’ own assessments of their skills, rarely asking the applicants to provide any proof to back up their claims.
  • Once caregivers are in patients’ homes, only about 30 percent of agencies send supervisors into homes at least once a month to evaluate the quality of care.

It’s a dark underside of the caregiver industry, with serious risks for patients and the families that hire caregivers. Imagine just a few of the possible scenarios…

  • A negligent caregiver could neglect or endanger patients by failing to feed or exercise them properly
  • A patient suffering from dementia could be vulnerable to abuse by an untrained caregiver
  • A drug abuser could be hired without a drug test and gain access to an elderly patient’s prescriptions
  • An unscrupulous caregiver with a criminal record could exploit a patient’s personal and financial data

As you already know, the potential risks are almost limitless. That’s why your screening and hiring practices are mission-critical.

As a quality caregiver, with a robust and proactive screening and hiring procedure, you have an important competitive advantage. Carefully document your efforts and tout the importance of this extra care when meeting with prospective patients and their families.

Below are three ways to set your agency apart while also managing risk:

  • Criminal background checks. If you hire someone with a criminal record who later harms a patient, you’ll be held liable. Unfortunately, some applicants lie on applications, so it’s imperative to run a thorough background check on all applicants.
  • Drug screening. You have a responsibility to protect your clients, patients, other employees, and your business from anyone who might cause harm or damage your reputation due to drug use, and the patients you serve deserve a caregiver who is physically and mentally sharp.
  • Pre-employment assessments. To make sure a caregiver is ready and fit for the job, consider conducting pre-employment assessments such as personality evaluations, talent assessments, physical exams, sample job tasks, English proficiency exams, and tests that assess attitudes, behavior, cognitive abilities, job skill aptitude, workplace motivations, and other factors.

Smart hiring is your first line of defense against inexperienced, unscrupulous, and even dangerous caregivers, and it’s the first crucial step toward keeping your patients safe and your business reputation intact.

Additionally, another strategy to reduce risks for home care agencies is making sure to have home care health liability insurance as a safety plan for both your business and staff. 

Want more risk management tips for your health care agency? At Heffernan Insurance Brokers, we’re actively involved with industry groups across the nation, and we understand what you need to continue providing your clients the care they deserve. Learn more about our insurance programs for senior living communities and allied health centers.

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